Two for the Road

Two for the Road (1,225)

August 1st, 2011

I got up at 2:00 A.M. this morning. As I’ve gotten older I have felt the need to do more “bathroom inspections” in the middle of the night. Returning from the Porcelain Palisades, I found myself wide awake, so I turned on the television. Usually at that time of morning, there are preachers who are purveyors of new products, pontificating on some process.

I tuned in a preacher. He is a well-known and –respected member of the clergy who makes lots of money, so I decided to take in his message. It was actually a simple little homily he shared with all of us listeners.

“Stop being so hard on yourself. You’re better than you think you are. So emphasize the positive things about your life, and stop being so self-critical.”

I looked at the auditorium where he was appearing and it was packed. Of course, it would be. Telling people they’re OK does have an upside—it gathers quite a throng of the approving.

Unfortunately, the message has a limited scope—because built into each and every human being is a conscience. Some may contend it is not actually innate, but rather, installed through our upbringing. Either way, it is always there to nag us to discover our weaknesses, with the aspiration of improving our present status.

So there is limited quality to the abstract notion of self-esteem, because deep inside our beings we are fully aware of our lacking. So the young preacher on television may garner an audience, certainly will acquire approval and maybe will even accumulate riches. But leaving people the same way you found them is not exactly the true definition of either ministry or progress.

On the other hand, there is another famous minister who preaches a message that we are not important and are filled with iniquity, and therefore all of our motivations are suspect and must be cleansed by an ongoing rebirthing in righteousness.

So it seems that the best religion has to offer these days is a choice between “you’re super-neat” OR “you suck.”

Candidly, both of these are useless to me in my daily walk as an upright member of the species Homo sapiens. Here’s what I think works. Let me rephrase that. Here’s what works for me:

1. I am fully aware of my flaws and not ashamed. Awareness is good; shame is not. It causes us to want to hide our discoveries rather than leading with them, producing honesty among our fellow-travelers. I do meet people who know they’re flawed but they’re so embarrassed by their lacking that they do everything in their power to disguise their sinister side. It causes them to be grouchy, defensive and even reclusive—unwilling to join in with other people to do greater things.

2. I don’t take my flaws too seriously. Knowing that the whole human race is flawed right alongside me, and that those who are truly wise in the spirit have learned to present their weaknesses with a bit of candor, I use humor and humility to promote myself as exactly what I am—flawed but functioning. It’s a great place to be. The fact that I’m flawed makes me loveable to my fellow-humans who, when they are in an enlightened state, would admit they are, too. The proclamation that I’m functioning, using good humor, makes me appear to be a genius among my peers.

If you don’t put these two together for your journey, you will find yourself doing what I call the unholy gyration:

· You will feel stupid but accidentally come off as a smart-ass to try to cover it up.

· You will perceive yourself to be weak and then, end up lifting too many burdens to counteract it and impress everyone that you’re strong.

· You will abhor the part of you that is selfish and end up giving to things you shouldn’t have and feel quite used.

· You will be totally ashamed of your angry nature and compromise your position at the wrong moment, rendering you frustrated.

· You will try to bury your lustful nature, ending up cold and even condescending to the opposite sex.

· And too often, a fear of being ugly makes one overly talkative and prideful about one attribute which we perceive to be exceptional.

The end result? Obnoxious.

Nobody wants to be obnoxious—but it’s what happens when we simply fail to recognize that we’re flawed and we’re not ashamed of it, while refusing to take it too seriously.

So to the young preacher who thinks everybody’s OK, I say this: What feels good for a minute but leaves us with a false sense of euphoria is merely a drug, not a cure.

And to that minister who thinks we humans are all are here to really stink up the planet, I must remind him: Jesus told us our reaction to tribulation in the system must be good cheer and the recognition that he has overcome the world.

Two for the road: I am flawed but not ashamed of it. And I don’t take it too seriously.

It’s what makes us valuable to ourselves, pleasing to God and tolerable to others.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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