Friday, March 16, 2012

Recovering from being a jerk

You know that moment in a movie when the hero makes a terrible error and alienates everyone he knows?  When he is the BIGGEST jerk possible and all you can do is cringe?  Sometimes I'm that guy.

Everyone has layers to their personalities.  I am shy when we first meet; next I am boisterous and spend most of my time making jokes about leering and online dating.  After I have discovered if you share a love of deep conversations you and I may spend hours discussing life, God, and why there are so many creepy men in my county.  These are my preferred presentations to people and in general I manage to maintain that.  I like to only display the best of my personality.

Now when it comes to family or very close friends they get glances of what goes on in my head.  Sometimes the last thing I want to do is to be invested in a conversation with a family member or roommate.  Sometimes I'm grumpy for no reason and take it out on someone else by withholding invested conversation.  For some reason I begin to resent the people closest to me.  I'm still unsure of where this comes from.

But even more cringe inducing is when I am an outright jerk.  I've seen this most recently when I'm spewing facts like I know what I'm talking about and someone gently provides an opposing view.  Actually, he/she shows that I was completely wrong and a little bit of an idiot.  Suddenly my image (see the second paragraph) is blown apart.  I am now in flight or fight because I have to figure out how recover from my icky mistake.

Rationalize, leave, or lash out in prideful anger.  Usually all three. What disturbs me the most is that all this is driven from pride.  I turn into this gollum-esque creature that values self and image above anything.  How do I gracefully accept that I am wrong?

This summer Julie and I were camp nurses and we made a lot of ice packs for a lot of minor injuries.  I swear 90% of nursing is holding hands and soothing feelings.  One girl came in tears to us in the back of the chapel during the evening message and reported that "scratched my eye with a piece of paper and it huuuuuuurts."  It was my turn to make an ice pack so off we went to the kitchen.  I really just wanted to get back and sit down.  Camp required longer hours than my job and there was no separation between personal time and "nurse" time.  I was tired and just wanted to sit for half an hour.  So I cut a corner.  I put ice in the ziplock and handed it to the girl, without a paper towel to buffer the cold.  We returned and Julie looked at me quizzically and asked why I hadn't put a paper towel on it.  Suddenly I was angry and fearful...  I had been caught.

I've always operated on the thought that Julie is definitely harder working and probably smarter than me.  I respond to this by being defensive and very cautious in stating my medical opinions around her.  So when she confronted me about my barrier-less ice pack, I responded in an annoyed and defensive tone that "she won't even have it on that long."  I reassured myself that I was probably in the right when I saw the girl, ice pack-less, happily goofing off with her friends three minutes later.

I never forgot that incident and still feel tinges of guilt about my pride.  I hate that sometimes I respond in fear of injury to my pride.  Why does it matter if I look like an idiot jerk?  Why must I be so rigid in controlling my appearance? I hate pride.

The truth is I can convince myself pretty easily that I'm always right and that wrong courses of action are actually okay.  Occasionally someone catches me and ends up holding up a mirror so I can actually see my behavior. Oh man, I hate it when that happens.  I can so easily add cutting corners.  The truth is I need people to hold mirrors up to me.

I need the people closest to me to be honest about the behavior they see.  I need them to be okay with awkward conversations.  I need to add a new "recovery strategy" which involves laying all of my stupidity out on the table.  I hate wondering what other people will think, but honestly they can already tell I'm kind of being an idiot, it's just the specifics that aren't clear.  But I am certain that the people closest to me will respond with grace, or if not that we can have a conversation that will lead to humility on my part and grace on their part.

It's all part of "living in community".  This is a very cliche term in Christianity these days. It is a concept that encompasses huge things like dedicating your life to Christ, being honest with other people who have experienced a taste of redemption, and being honest about how you are really messed up and how you need Christ every second to help you in your mess.  At community group last night the main passage of interest was 1 John 1:5-7, but I'm going to include 8-10.

"Walking in the light" and "walking in the darkness" are two main concepts.  I would identify an example of "walking in darkness" as when I respond in anger over an injury to my pride. At that moment the most important thing to me is restoring my image, not God, not people, but me.  Verse 7 talks about walking like Christ, having fellowship with others, and being purified from sin. This is community and it is all interwoven. As believers we are constantly being sanctified and new areas of sin are being revealed.  I need to be honest about my devotion to pride so that others can hold a mirror when I'm being an idiot.  Know this, holding a mirror is not judgment, it is a loving action that acts as a safeguard against me becoming the hugest jerk on the planet.

8-10 focuses on sin and how we are not perfect.  We have/are/will sinned/sinning/sin.  I need my brothers and sisters to walk with me "in community" because I am not a pillar of moral uprightness.  I need loving correction. I need to practice what it feels like to have my meanness laid out in front of people.  This is a safe place to try.  I have great friends, family, and a church that encourages honest and committed relationships.    Pride needs to be eliminated and confronted.

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.
 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.