Dark Night Descending … July 21, 2012

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Gary and Terri were my friends. Neither relationship was based upon ease and comfort, but rather, hinged on need.

I met Gary during a brief station of living in the Bayou State. He was just a little younger than me and both of us were much too immature for our own good. He had been diagnosed as bi-polar, and like so many folks who find themselves in that position, he yearned to be normal by conventional standards. To confirm that desire, he often refused to take his medications. When he didn’t allow for chemical intervention, he was completely out of his mind and would occasionally run through the streets of our little Southern town naked, proclaiming what he determined was the “good word of the Lord.”

Because I was young and lacked experience, I took a long time to consider what my job was with Gary. He had been to so many churches in his life that in many ways he was more qualified than some ministers–at least in being able to quote large passages of scripture. He had been counseled by an abundance of professionals, so he had learned to be a great con man and was quite able to convince you of his complete competence at the drop of a hat. He was charming enough to have deluded many hapless lasses into bedding with him, so he lacked respect for the opposite sex as human beings, viewing them as sexual conquests.

I watched all this unfold in front of me. I made a decision with Gary that I have used the rest of my life. The notion that we will never meet crazy people or that there’s nothing we can do about them is what causes the empowering of the weak-minded. People are either afraid of them, baffled by them or disgusted by them. All of us have crazies. Many of these crazies are in our own families.

Now, what do I mean by crazy? If you’ll allow me to insert my definition here before you become offended by my candor, here it is: crazy is when we allow disappointment and frustration to drain us of our better virtues and invite self-pity to take control. For some people, it’s pronounced because they have chemical imbalances or issues going back into their childhoods. For others, it’s an imitation of maturity–acting depressed, upset and pulling themselves out of the game of life just as they’re about to have the opportunity to score a touchdown.

The first thing I did with Gary was love him. The second thing I did with Gary was insist that he take his medication. In the process, he became annoyed, sometimes appreciative, attempting deception, and bounced among those three profiles for the rest of our relationship. Because he was on his medication, his life got better, he grew in true wisdom of his faith instead of superstition, and he met a lovely woman and married her. But then he decided to go off his medication, and ended up abusive, threatening and dangerous.

I realized I had one last responsibility with Gary. I stepped in, protected the young woman from his viciousness and got him admitted to a mental ward. I visited him. They decided to keep him for a long time. They even transferred him to a more permanent facility. Shortly after that I left the state and I’ve never heard from Gary again. But Gary taught me a very valuable lesson.

God sends you people. People are often crazy. Deal with your crazies.

Terri, on the other hand, was a young lady who joined my musical group in its early years. She was attractive, although she thought she was beautiful–her parents had told her so. She was a pretty good singer but she thought she was great–she had a letter from her church choir director to confirm it. She had a friendly personality, but believed she was dynamic. Everything about her perceptions were exaggerated. It wasn’t exactly Terri’s fault–in a great cloud of deceptive self-esteem, she had been raised by a family which believed it was their job to over-state their appreciation for their daughter to build up her confidence so she wouldn’t be depressed by the true nature of life’s competition.

So when Terri got in a music group and needed to sing harmony with other people, it was a shock for her to discover that she was occasionally sharp or flat. She would burst into tears at the notion that she needed to rehearse more to perfect her portion. It was a painful process and a grueling detail–to smother the false awareness that had been placed in her by her upbringing and replace it with reality, allowing her to improve so that she could measure up to the standard of the praise she so yearned to receive. Terri got better, and when she got better she wasn’t nearly as devastated by being worse.

Americans are under the misconception that giving praise will keep people from being dashed by the dastardly criticism of everyday life. Really, nowhere else in the world does any culture mislead its citizenry in such a way. Young people waking up in Africa are not told they are beautiful. The Chinese don’t laud their children with tons of accolades, but rather, expect perseverence and the desire to excel.

It’s in America where we feel the need to lie so as to cushion the harshness of the necessary system. Let me explain–when something is fair, it can not be considered to be okay. Okay is a little better than fair. Learn the difference. Likewise, when it’s okay, it is not good. The word “good” means that we have entered the ballpark of possibility. Okay means we’re still trying to get a ticket. Here’s a tricky one: good is not exceptional. We love to over-praise people and end up exaggerating their sense of importance, which means that exceptional is not great–and great, my friends, is not genius. I am not so sure that “genius” is proper to use for anyone but our Creator.

Our doctrine of self-esteem in this country has created a generation of “lazies,” and because of their addiction to accolades, they cease to try to get better. It affects our society, from the President all the way down to the street sweeper.

Very early on Friday morning, a man walked into a movie theater and emptied out all of his craziness and laziness into a theater full of unsuspecting people. Because it was not caught early enough by astute family members, friends and just folks who were perceptive to human need, his unleashing was in the form of bullets instead of frustrated bad language in a counseling session.

I will be blunt with you: James Holmes should have either ended up being taken care of and helped, or so frustrated that he put a gun to his own head, killing himself. Yes, let me say it loud and proud–suicide is preferable to homicide.

So even though the anti-gun people will insist that the purchase of weapons was the source of the tragedy and the NRA will defend itself by saying that guns are a God-given right, and those against video games will cite that the young man was trying to play the part of the Joker from the Batman movies, and the entertainment industry will bring in its experts to prove that merely watching violence does not create a climate for it, all of them miss the point.

The reason James Holmes was allowed to commit this atrocity in Aurora, Colorado, is because people didn’t deal with their crazies or motivate their lazies. When he was a kid he was given too much self-esteem because that’s what our society does, so when he arrived at adulthood he found out he wasn’t nearly as valuable as he thought he was; he also was a little crazier and more imbalanced than anyone was willing to admit to his face. So even though when people got around him, within half a minute they knew something was wrong, they chose to leave him alone instead of dealing  with their “crazy” and trying to motivate the laziness, which would allow his promise to turn into the reality of some accomplishment.

Every one of us has crazies in our lives. Every one of us has lazies. They are people who are weaker and require our focus and attention. What we decide to do with them determines whether they end up struggling, discovering a mixture of daily victories and defeats, or angry with the world, emptying ammunition into terrified ticket-holders.

Don’t blame anybody for Aurora. Be smart. Deal with your crazies and motivate your lazies. Stop avoiding people who are imbalanced and challenge them to find help. Cease to give over-zealous flattery, and instead, call great “great,” good “good,” fair “fair” and by the way–poor “poor.”

When we finally arrive at this point, people who love and care will take the crazies and the lazies out of the spotlight, and in so doing, save the lives of average people who just wanted to go out to a movie premiere.

    

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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