Practical Application of the Word of God
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Christ – Luke 6:45 (NKJV)
I have been thinking a lot about how we reveal our real selves, mainly through our words, in spite of all the sometimes elaborate attempts we can make to project ourselves as something different and, in most cases, better than what we, in stark reality, are. We are quite the contradictions, I’ve realized, and the messages we send between our projected selves and our real selves are quite contradictory as well.
This deals, again, with the interrelated subjects of authenticity and truthfulness, because it seems that the people we are least truthful and authentic with, first and foremost, are ourselves. And once we’ve bought our own prettied-up press about ourselves, we are eager to feed that story to the world as the actual representation of who we are. And we’re lying. To ourselves. To everyone else. And, most of the time, we don’t even see how pervasively dishonest we’re being.
I’ve watched a phenomenon that has emerged with the advent of social media. People really will say and do anything. Until social media came along, most of what ordinary people did went unobserved and unnoticed. It was easy to project whatever image of yourself you wanted to and almost no one would be the wiser. But social media has had the ironic effect of removing restraint in many cases and people, in general, seem blissfully unaware that everything they tweet or post or comment or “like” is adding up to a composite, and more truthful – even more ironic – picture of who and what they are.
It appears, to me anyway, that most people don’t give any thought to “what does this say about me?” – and what it really reveals is a total lack of concern or care for how they represent themselves and everything else (employer, family, friends, God and Christ) they claim to represent – when they are using social media. It truly makes me shake my head a lot.
I consistently see people routinely post links to religious organization site articles and then post statuses like “Sarcasm: because it’s illegal to beat the crap out of people.” or “Calm down. Take a deep breath. Hold it for 20 minutes.” And I think of Luke 6:45.
I see people who claim to be following Christ (those who don’t make any such claims are, in fact, the most authentic) like and share things that are clearly in opposition to what Christ believes and does. And I think of Matthew 12:33-37.
The biggest irony – and perhaps most troubling aspect to me – of this phenomenon is that these same people often are the most vocal and the most strident, and not in a good way, in group discussions. They are the first to attack, criticize, and condemn others. They show very little mercy, very little kindness, very little gentleness, and very little compassion. They will chew you up and spit you out for breakfast. And then gloat about it (you can almost see the peacock strut of pride in their words), all in the name of defending, they say, “truth.”
It turns out that truth for them is relative to how they see things. As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, and I paraphrase for grammar’s sake, “They can’t handle THE truth.” No wonder. If they’ve lied to themselves about who they are, then it follows that the rest of their lives will be a lie.
Relative truth always includes healthy doses of self-interest, prejudice and bias, and ignorance. It is the result of thinking very small and not having much of a clue about the big picture. It will ignore absolute truth. No matter how factually, logically, or objectively it is proven to be wrong, it remains entrenched, and each attempt to correct it brings out more ignorance and even more commitment to it. It is a paradox that I don’t understand, but I’ve seen it over and over.
Relative truth depends first on self-interest. To cling to an idea as true when it is not, the crux of that idea must show a threat to well-being by an antagonist. This goes hand in hand with bias and prejudice. Two obvious examples of this are the Ku Klux Klan rhetoric, much of which still exists today, more cloaked and more subtle than in the 19th and 20th centuries, but still alive and well, which targets – and demonizes – African-Americans as a threat to the self-interests of white America and the immigration debate going on today.
The immigration debate is interesting, because it really shows ignorance and prejudice against a single group of people – Hispanics. Almost every time I see a comment on immigration or illegal immigration, I see two words in the comment: (1) Mexican (some people are a tad more savvy and say “Hispanics”) and (2) Spanish. And then there is the usual ignorant bashing about laziness, stealing our jobs, higher crime rates, lower property values, and less for all of us who are “entitled” to it and more for those who aren’t “entitled” to it (some of the same arguments made about African-Americans since the end of the Civil War).
And yet every time I see this, I think of Leviticus 19:33-34, and if I have the opportunity, I say something like the following (this is an actual comment I made in response to this recently): “In reality, the only natives to this country, our ancestors – the original wave of illegal aliens – mostly destroyed through disease and murder (breaking God’s law, which supercedes all man-made laws, which are selfish and often reflect humanity’s tendency toward double standards and situational ethics). So unless we have a native American heritage, we’re all descendants of illegal aliens.”
The people slamming this particular subset of immigrants (legal or illegal) never missed a beat and continued to show how profoundly ignorant they truly are. Notice I said “subset.” There are a lot of immigrants and aliens, legal and illegal, from all parts of the world living in this country. I have never heard complaints about illegal European immigrants and aliens, or illegal Canadian immigrants and aliens, or illegal Caribbean or African or Asian immigrants and aliens.
Realistically, these groups together probably make up the largest share of people “illegally” in this country, and yet the focus on one group shows the bias and prejudice behind it and shows the relative truth. The person or people screaming about these things are not, in fact, opposed to immigration (illegal or otherwise) per se, but they are vehemently opposed to this particular group of people. The hate comes out through their words, even though most of them will tell you they love everybody.
There is one more tell-tale sign of this duplicitous behavior – and I spend a lot of time self-checking myself in an effort to make sure this is not my behavior, because Jeremiah 17:9 says we’re all prone to this and prone to ignorance about it, so by pointing these things out, I’m reminding myself that I have to be constantly making sure that who I say I am is who I am – is attacking people instead of problems. When I have an issue with something, I’m very careful with my words to make sure my communication is not directed at the person, but at the issue or problem. When I’m talking within a group about a problem, I don’t bring names and personalities into the discussion, because that’s irrelevant. There’s a problem that needs to be addressed and resolved. Period.
Duplicitous people name names and make people the focus of their discussion. Inherent in this is pointing fingers and blaming someone else and then holding themselves up as being right and righteous and unmovable. They use words like “ever” and “never” to describe themselves. Like the big banks of the bailout that we all paid for, they see themselves as being too big (or right) to fail.
Proverbs 17:9 comes to mind when I see this. It doesn’t mean tolerating or compromising with wrong-doing or sin. What it does mean is not shouting it out from the rooftops, naming names, and then going on to trash the person and/or people personally. That fixes and solves nothing. In fact, it, without fail, makes things worse and usually ends up with a separation of some sort, most of the time permanent.
Why? Because picking on a person or people in a personal way automatically generates “sides.” And once sides have formed, they grow. And whatever the actual problems or issues that needed to be addressed get lost or forgotten by most and the issue becomes about personality (for or against). And the worst part about this is the dishonesty embedded in the outcome: the problems or issues still exist and were never resolved and both “sides” bear the responsibility for that omission (even the side of the maligned person or people should make sure the issues and problems are the focus and not the person or people, but it rarely happens). And because the heart of the matter got lost, it will crop up again and again on both sides because it never gets dealt with and resolved.
I’ve always heard that you are what you eat. I believe this is a physical truism. A spiritual truism is, then, you are what you speak.