Friday, 14 November 2014

Seeing the Elephant

The first time I read The Lord of The Rings I must have been about 12 years old. I adored it! Absolutely fell in love with it!

Since then, I've kept coming back to re-read it every few years. And each time I do something new leaps out at me and captures my imagination. Each time I approach this well-loved piece of literature, I find something new to delight my soul.

It's not that the story has changed, but that I have. I've changed. I've grown. And my experience of life has increased with the passing years.

The things which spoke most deeply to me as a young teenager were different from the things that moved me as a newly-wed. What caught my attention when I was a first-time mum was different from what engaged me after my husband walked out. My most recent excursion into its wonder, happily married and with 3 fantastic sons, was different again.

Over the years I came to realise an important truth: what we get out of a book depends greatly upon what we have to bring to it.

But this truth has far greater implications than our enjoyment of a good (or even great!) book. It stays true in all aspects of our life. What we take away from an experience depends greatly on what we have brought to it.

This reality came to mind recently when I was involved in an online 'discussion' over a particular post. As is often the case, there'd been a fair few comments posted of the "I'm right, you're wrong" variety.

I was getting a bit riled by one chap in particular, so I stopped to get some perspective and re-assess my motives for engaging.

And it occurred to me that we were all behaving like the blind men with the elephant. Each of us was reading the author's work according to our own particular bias and understanding. We had each approached the article bearing our own life experience - holding tightly to the things that were important to us.

We'd all read the same words... and yet what we read differed greatly depending on what we'd brought to them. We were feeling different parts of the elephant and declaring our own piece to be the only correct view.

It's probably a good thing to keep in mind. We all have the tendency to think that our own experience or understanding is universal. Many times it's simply out of ignorance - I don't know what I don't know.

But when we fail to stop and consider the possibility that someone else just might be seeing something we can't, we not only invalidate the other person's reality, but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enlarge our own awareness.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

What is That "Sorry" Worth?

Since my own devastating 'church' experience, I've been reading and learning all I can about abuse. What it looks like. How it manifests. Why both abuser and abused seem to act out their parts as if reading from some ineluctable script, regardless of the finer details of the situation.

There are the classic moves like blaming, gas lighting and shunning.

There is the haunting pain of shame, self-doubt and isolation.

And there is, to mis-quote Maxwell Smart, the old 'say sorry and then insist your victim gets over it' trick.

I've been watching this trick being played throughout the fall of the Driscoll Empire: "He's said he's sorry, what more do you want from him!?"

And because people like Warren Throckmorton keep pressing for answers, they are accused of being judgemental, bloodthirsty and self-righteous. And that's just the polite words...

What some people refuse to understand is that people who have survived abuse (or at least understand its foulness) will move heaven and earth to make sure no-one else becomes a victim. If you've experienced that depth of pain and betrayal, you won't sit idly by and watch an abuser just walk away. Free to keep on devastating the lives of the innocent or unwary.

It's not a case of "wanting to bring them down" or "being out for revenge". It's knowing that an unrepentant abuser will strike again. Think about it for a moment - if they don't believe they've done anything wrong, why would they change their behaviour!?

That is why it is wise to seek proof of 'repentance' before trusting again. To ask that actions line up with the words.

Reparation. Redress. Restitution. Recompense. Restoration.

These are the things that can lead to reconciliation. Things that prove the sincerity of your words. Things that show how serious you are about what you have said.

But be warned! If you stand your ground in wanting to see the evidence, there's a real danger that you'll be further vilified. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about!

Of course, the upside to that is you'll know exactly how much that "sorry" was worth!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Attitude Matters

The other day, I had a conversation at work that got me thinking.

A colleague had arrived barely a minute late and she was apologising for it. Her co-worker responded graciously and it sparked a conversation, during which this young woman shared that her dad viewed turning up to work early to be absolutely imperative. She said he'd been known to sack tradies working for him if they turned up late.

That night I came back to the conversation and started mulling it over. It occurred to me that anyone can arrive early to work, but still have lousy attitude all day. Likewise, it is possible for one who is normally conscientious at their work to be late in arriving.

So an action, in and of itself, is of limited benefit in conveying the heart attitude of the person involved.

This is the problem with legalism. It demands an outward conformity to a set of rules but cannot move the heart of those involved. So it reduces the us to the performance of approved actions but leaves our attitude untouched. As long as we are seen to be acting a certain way, our motivation for doing so is rarely questioned.

The danger in this is we can be left with a facade which has nothing behind it - no substance.

As long as we look good, it is presumed we are good.

iz quotes

And this got me wondering how much this plays into the realities we have been seeing in the institutional church. There have been many leaders in recent times whose behaviour has been revealed as abusive or corrupt and yet they seem incapable of admitting it - of really owning their own crap. (And Mark Driscoll is just the latest, christian-celebrity example of this.)

It also appears that those watching on, applauding the outward appearance, don't want to see the emptiness behind the facade. As long as the leader looks good, mouths the correct words, they don't seem to care that there may be nothing of substance behind the looks, no meaningful reality to those words. As longs as it looks good!

I wonder how much of this imperative to maintain the facade is built on the presumption that looking good equates to being good?

Conversely, how many leaders have done real good (and won genuine respect) by admitting their faults and addressing their sin?

You see, a good appearance can be deceptive - it's what's in the heart that is important.

Attitude matters.