I have worked for many years on excellence of mind
I have worked for many years on excellence of mind
I have worked for many years on excellence of mind
It has been my observation―
And you can quote me on this if you like―
That most people are fairly well-behaved
When they are behaving well.
When you see them falling short,
It’s often not so much because they don’t
Know any better as it is because
They don’t want any better.
Wouldn’t it be something
If it were to turn out that after
All these years of modest success,
I should chance to discover in myself
An honest-to-goodness superpower in such
A surprisingly-mundane thing as getting
Sufficient help from my friends!
And wouldn’t it be something
If I could be a great-enough
Blessing to them that they
Should find it worth their
Time to tend to me!
When she said “yes” to his proposal,
She had thought she was also saying “yes”
To all her dreams coming true.
That’s how it had felt.Continue reading When She Said “Yes”
“An animal doesn’t defecate in its own den.”
That’s what Uncle Bill said
That these were the exact words he used
In that conversation about the best placement
For our makeshift latrine at “The Camp”.
He seemed to suggest that what comes naturally
To our animal friends should come reasonably
To mankind with just a little common-sensical
Reflection on the outcomes of human interactions.
And indeed, it seemed quickly reasonable to me.
But that conversation, as I recall, never waxed philosophic
Beyond what love of wisdom we could find in the scatological,
And made no attempt to account for how mankind
Does not seem to have been designed quite the same
As the other species, and seems to have a unique gift
For missing the obvious whenever he wants to,
Or whenever it’s about one of his own faults.
But then, I repeat myself.
Anyway, the point of all this
Is that some men do defecate in their own dens,
Metaphorically speaking, of course―
Befouling their own homes
And their own families
With things like rage and derision and bullying,
And other breaches of reason and good faith
And common decency.
And they think it their own right to do so,
And the duty of those around to clean it up
Which point you ought to have gotten already
From my previous repetition.
And our choices in the main seem to be that
And no matter how you look at it,
The problem with the in-camp defecator
Becomes a problem for us to face for ourselves.
It puts us to the test and shows
What kind of people we are.
And, as hard as it may be, it may also
Show us that we have the option to improve
What kind of people we are,
Learning to be something better ourselves.
And such is life here on this beautiful-ugly Earth,
Where people are so often prickly and messy
And inconsistent, and where very hard decisions
Must be made, even if we’d rather not make them.
In my 58 years, if memory serves me well, I have always rejected the Number 2 option above,
(This pun was not intended at first, but neither was it refused once noticed!) because the falsehood of it is untenable to me. When it comes to such things, I’ve always been pretty much the no-nonsense person (though in humor, I revel in the nonsensical). But I understand that I’m not like everybody, and that many have taken to taking the blame themselves for the misdeeds of those who hurt them, or to bear the chronic burden of cleaning it up themselves. What can I say, but that I struggle to understand what that kind of life would be like? Neither the unjust blame nor the unjust burden is tenable to me.
I can say this, though: I have generally told it like it is to many regarding their bad behavior, and I have parted ways with many on account of their unwillingness to cut it out. And while none of that is pleasant, at least I don’t have to suffer the shame, irrationality, and self-harm of the Number 2 option. That is, I have not given in to the bad reasoning that says, in effect: “Since you keep hurting me, I will pretend it’s my fault, so that at least, you don’t keep hurting me and being mad at me for holding you accountable for it, and for not taking the blame and the burden on myself.”
Indeed, I have suffered enough at the hands of those who turn the tables on me for pointing out their bad behavior in the first place―who try quite predictably to pass it off as me just being something like these:
Surely, some of these counter accusations have been right about me at times, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a low-down, dirty dodge for the in-camp defecator to go there in a conversation that started in order to address his or her bad behavior. (See here about ad hominem dodging.) In other words, when challenged about fouling the camp, what they do is to foul the camp even more! This shows their true colors; it shows what they’re made of. It shows what kind of person they are choosing to be. And it shows how low their view of me and the other campers is.
This I have found, however: When you make a habit of calling it like it is, the camp-fouling individual tends to be the one who parts ways:
Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.Proverbs 15:12. NIV.
He finds it untenable to be called out, and will begin looking for an easy way out. This normally comes in the way of charging me with being the reason it all fell apart. But then, what else could they do? Admit to the fault in themselves?
If they were the sort to do that, they might just as well reform their own ways. Right? But that’s not the sort of person they’re choosing to be. So really, how else should we expect it to turn out between a truth-teller and an incorrigible camp-fouler?
Hey, you’re fouling the camp!
No, I’m not! And besides that, Jack, you’ve obviously a bitter and proud person, and harsh, too, and unforgiving, and you’re overweight, and your desk is messy, and you’ve always had it out for me, anyway, and I’m not going to have anything to do with you anymore, because I’ve been patient with you long enough.
This kind of behavior is condemned again and again in the scriptures, though in many of today’s churches, it is defended again and again as worthy of our grace and forgiveness and such. So many churches allow it and protect it, and even teach that it is justified if one’s bad behavior is being “caused” by hurts they have suffered themselves in the past.
This is particularly ironic since one of the popular counter-accusations is that Jack must have suffered hurt in the past, and is simply critizing out of bitterness
So there is obvious hypocrisy built into the counter-accusation, but the camp-fouler is precisely the kind of person to have shut his own eyes to that sort of fault in himself, even as he is quite willing to fabricate accusations of such a fault in the one who would dare call him out for his bad behaviors.
I choose not to associate with people like that, and I do not regret it. And this is not just a matter of having my own personal solution to the problem; it’s a matter of adhering to the wisdom of the ages, as found in the scriptures:
1 Blessed is the onePsalm 1:1-2. NIV.
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
4 I do not sit with the deceitful,Psalm 26:4-5. NIV.
nor do I associate with hypocrites.
5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers
and refuse to sit with the wicked.
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,Proverbs 22:24-25. NIV.
do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways
and get yourself ensnared.
…you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.Paul. 1 Corinthians 5:11b. NIV.
Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.Paul. 2 Thessalonians 3:14. NIV.
The habitual camp-fouler will insist that he has the right not to feel ashamed for his actions―and the right not to be shunned by you or the rest of the camp for them. And that’s why he doesn’t (for now, anyway) belong in a camp with other humans; he’s behaving worse than the mere animals, who know better by nature than what this human is willing to figure out by reason and observation. Even so, he can quickly come to his senses when someone fouls him! Let someone wrong him, and you’ll hear about it all day long!
And that, I submit, is a twisted human, who will use his mind only as it suits him, and not as it suits fair reason and principle and justice and goodness. He is incorrigible. That is, he is beyond correction―not by nature, mind you, but by choice.
21 When my heart was grievedPsalm 73:21-22. NIV.
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
2 Surely I am only a brute, not a man;Proverbs 30:2-3. NIV.
I do not have human understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Man was set above the animals and below the angels. He was supposed to be higher than the animals in his behavior, and not beneath them. And he is supposed to reach out and attain the knowledge of God during his lifetime. But many humans refuse this responsibility, and will not even learn that simplest of principles, The Golden Rule:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.Jesus. Matthew 7:12. NIV.
The brute ignores this often, and while he may follow it in some things, he certainly will not follow it “in everything“, as Jesus commanded. In this, he is defiant to God and to any human who dares to point it out. (The Golden Rule was not new when Jesus said it, but this “in everything” part―it wouldn’t surprise me it this were unique to Jesus. (It reminds me of the First and Greatest Commandment, and the Second that is like it. And I suppose I could wrote a whole post about other passages it reminds me of, too, such as Matthew 5:43-48 (opens in a new tab)" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Matthew 5:43-48.)
The back-to-back proverbs that follow point out some of the perils of dealing with fools:
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,Proverbs 26:4-5. NIV.
or you yourself will be just like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
If he foolishly fouls his own den, and we respond in keeping with this same foolishness, we can pretend―like him―that this is not a serious transgression, and that he need not reform his ways. But if we do that, we “will be just like him”, says the writer. (And this is where many who will shelter such a person fail to see that they are sinning themselves in doing it.)
Rather, what we should do is what Verse 5 says. And in this case, the translation could be better, for I think it should say, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves…”, where as Verse 4 should be understand as “Do not answer a fool employing his same foolishness to do so…”.
Unfortunately, many people fail with this two-liner proverb. That is, we do adopt the fool’s own foolishness when responding to him, and we don’t give him the answer that his foolishness actually deserves. So this makes us “just like him” (Verse 4), and it also makes it easy for him to “be wise in his own eyes” (Verse 5), since so many of us normally opt simply to let the fool be, without calling him out.
So that brings me back to the discussion with Uncle Bill: “An animal doesn’t defecate in its own den.”
If this is true, then how often to the animals have to deal with a fellow animal that does defecate in its own den?
Never. Right? It stands to reason that if it never happens, they never have to deal with it. Yet we do see them snapping at the one among them who wants to steal the food of others. And this often works for to deter some food-stealers among them, though some of them establish a dominance over the others, and put themselves at the top of the pecking order, which the others tolerate. Yet in Christ, are there not many teachings that we ought not consider ourselves better than anyone else, and that we ought to defer to the needs of others, and that the greatest among us is the servant, and not the tyrant?
How is it, then, that we so often neglect the needs of others to be corrected when their behavior falls short of the Golden Rule? Why do some of us so often suffer silently, and even clean up after their mess ourselves, rather than teaching and training them to be responsible before self, man, and God for cleaning up their own messes, and for seeing to it that it doesn’t happen again?
Do we not teach our own children how and where to defecate, and to clean themselves up? Doesn’t this seem a wholly reasonable and necessary part of good parenting? Why, then, do we tolerate it when an adult lacks the good sense of following the Golden Rule, and fouls his own camp? Why do we not consider him in need of remedial training in decency, and then see to it that he gets what he needs? Do we love him so little as to deprive him of a life-giving rebuke?
If so, what kind of people does that make us? And how does it make us any better than the den-fouler himself? How does that makes us anything but hypocritical if we call ourselves Christians, yet do not hold him to the standard of Christ?
Normal people are capable of self-correction once their bad behavior has been brought to their attention. The incorrigible ones are special people, though, and need some special help. But the problem is that our society has shunned that sort of help, and counts it as barbarous. Read it here:
Proverbs 19:25. NIV.
We have to slow down go get this one. First of all, there is no promise here that the mocker will learn his lesson. Who will learn from that incorrigible mocker being flogged is “the simple“. That is, those who are in between being mockers themselves, and being “discerning”. The discerning will learn simply from being rebuked, where the simple aren’t that wise yet, but will learn from seeing the incorrigible being punished for their defiance.
Think about so many of our modern church cultures, however, where rebuking anyone has become fairly taboo with this modern and twisted idea of “grace” that is so popular. This means that even the more discerning among us aren’t getting all the knowledge they need. And when we don’t punish the incorrigible mockers, the simple certainly aren’t learning the prudence they need. And what of the mocker himself? They they are generally stiff-necked and stubborn, and refuse to learn their lessons. But if they are in a camp with us, where the camp avoids rebuking and correcting even its wisest members, how are we ever going to find out whether the fools are committed to being incorrigible, or whether they can be persuaded to repent?
I am grieved that so many today have sworn off this teaching of God, thinking that we somehow know better than to call it like it is when people do wrong. They certainly didn’t learn this by studying the whole Bible, but could easily learn it in a church that simply cherrypicks its favorite passages, and ignores the rest. And that, my friends, is itself a defiant practice, making us fools when we do it.
If rebuking and correcting those who aren’t mature in their knowledge of good and evil, and who aren’t well-trained in their own self-control is a sin, then Jesus himself was a huge sinner! And I don’t think he was a sinner at all. Yet in so many of our camps, there is such a truce between the camp foulers and the rest―even as we bemoan the sad state of things, whether it be in marriages or churches or families, or in whatever human institution.
Indeed, I know families and marriages who are trapped in this sort of truce with camp-fouling family members. It is so grievous to watch the assumption that this is just how it has to be ruin the family. And the “help” they get at church is mostly aimed at simply coping with it, rather than to be freed from it.
I say call it like it is, and let people decide what kind of people they want to be. This is far better than helping them to pretend (by our silence) that their bad actions are acceptable and that they are in a terrible state of emergency between themselves and God, as they defy his righteousness. When we take it upon ourselves to live in their filth, it’s as if we believe that this is the life that God intended for us. So, rather than fix it―or to try to fix it, and let the camp-fouler be the one to take a stand in defiance, if that’s what they choose―we settle for so much less, and we do it in the name of “the love of God”.
The Father in the Prodigal Son parable let his son leave, and didn’t run after him until the son had decided to make his own way back. And what a glorious story it is. Would that we had the wisdom and the courage to let people go away to flee to the darkness, rather than to create shadows for them in our own fellowship, so they can be comfortable remaining as they are.
This is a huge test for us. And surely, we have failed at it many times.
Perhaps this time, we could learn it and level up.
You push me down
And then you blame me for
Not popping right back up again.
You begrudge me licking my wounds,
Blaming me even for being wounded at all―
As if this were all my fault, somehow―
As if a better partner would never
Have fallen in the first place
And why must you be stuck
With such a loser, who
Doesn’t even know
How to fill that
But you don’t know
How to fill it up, either.
And yet it is my fault that
You are so empty all the time?
Neither of us wants to admit that you
Drive most goodness out of your heart―
Including whatever of it is to be found in me―
And then you expect me not only to find
Some other way to fill you up, but
Also some way to protect you
From the hard guilt of
And that’s why you
Have trained us to think
That this entire thing is my fault,
From my inability to satisfy your emptiness,
To my falling down when you push me,
And even for having this despicable
Wounded heart that pulls away
From your sickening act
Of loving concern.
And while you stand there,
Making it plain that you are tired
Of waiting for me to get myself back up,
So that our life can get back to being about you,
I must admit that it’s getting harder and
Harder to see any promise in this
Where you pretend that
The abuse is not a
Things, and I
My young self
Was needy enough
To find some desperate
Hope in this in the beginning,
But these toilsome years with you
Have pretty much beaten it all out of me.
And I find myself today on the ground once more,
Where surprisingly, I still find some promise in getting up,
Yet less than before at giving it another go with you
In this make-believe life you insist on (us both)
Leading at the cost of these wounds and of
These blame-shifting lies we both
Tell to make this union seem
Less than the nightmare
It has proven to be.
As it turns out,
I was wanting a life
Of growth and discovery,
Where you were hoping I could
Somehow save you from having to
Go through all that for yourself.
And I regret that it took me
This long to realize it,
But now that I do,
Shall I wish
I write this piece, in part, to try to get my hands around the experience of the evolving soul who is stuck in a partnership with the narcissist, and also in the hope that I have expressed it here well enough to be useful at least to the awakening partner in it, if not to the self-hardening abuser, who is not likely to want to learn. I chose to write about that point in time where the realization is dawning, but where the ultimate decision has not yet been made.
What should be done about it (by the abused) is a grievous matter, for sure. On the one hand, keeping the original covenant makes all the sense in the world, as keeping a covenant is simply what one is supposed to do. But on the other hand, it is not being kept by the other, who also promised to love and to cherish, but does not, and who continues to abuse―so it is a broken covenant already, with both sides pretending it is not.
And I cannot say what is the right thing to do for the abused, though it is clear that this was not the dream that either had in the beginning. The sacrifice made to keep from calling it quits here forward does not result in it getting any better, for with the years comes the realization, stronger and stronger, that without both hearts being willing, it was doomed from the start.
I fear, however, that the harm being suffered is not just from the abuse, but from the various lies the abused will tell to keep hope alive: that it is his or her own fault somehow, and that it is a sin to want better, and certainly, to demand it, and that it is his or her responsibility to make the partner whole inside, and that if only I were a better person, the partner would be a better person.
It is never good for the soul, I am convinced, to tell a lie. And I hate to see it happening in any scenario, including one so tragic as what I describe here. But how can the partnership continue when one of the partners opts out wholly from the lies? Wouldn’t that lead to an untenable state of hostility and resentment? Wouldn’t it completely break the co-dependent routine?
Once the pretense is gone, what’s left but the cold logistics of a shared economy, and the hope of saving what may be saved of whatever family may have come from the union?
Many cannot fathom the losses of parting. This is true and understandable. Yet my concern is that they do not fathom the losses of staying. And I lack the wisdom to say for certain which is the greater loss, though I myself could not stand the pretense and the lies, and would have to find another life, however crippled―where at least my hopes from then forward could be honest.
And even having a strong imagination, it is difficult for me to imagine a way forward while staying without the pretense and false hope. Being wronged daily, I would find it equally untenable to call it out for what it is, or to suck it up and be quiet about it. And this makes me wonder at the state of maturity of my own spirit, and whether I should be able to endure it or not.
Pondering all this quite puts me to the test! And I am much less apt to assume to know what is the right thing to do than I might have been before. I wrote in my opening paragraph (in this explanation of the piece) about that point in time in which the ultimate decision has not yet been made. But it seems to me that such a decision can be made in installments, in a matter of speaking. That is, that one can decide to hope for just one more day. And one can decide this again and again indefinitely, never knowing whether it will one day begin to seem untenable, or whether it can indeed be held together somehow until death do us part.
But this is one of the big struggles in this world, and many more are the marriages that tend somewhat toward the dysfunctional end of the scale than those that work pretty well, all things considered. And has it not always been thus?
It is my hope, then, at least to give comfort to the abused by way of demonstrating that the struggle can be understood by someone else.
It was a simple mistake, really.
Having surrounded themselves
Thoroughly with church,
They had assumed themselves
Surrounded with God.
Knowing you’re supposed to be like Jesus
And wanting to be like Jesus
Are not even remotely the same thing.
I hate to admit it after all these years, but
I suppose I have found that miraculous free time
For which everyone longs―
That time with which―if we had it―
We would all do those wonderful things
That need doing, and upon which the world
Is waiting to be a better place.
The world wants a love
That will neither call it higher,
Nor expect it to do better than it does.