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“Nothing Personal” Can Be Very Personal

October 22, 2014 Leave a comment

One thing that struck me about my father’s response to having his adultery found out was that he didn’t mean anything personal by it. I suspect he would say that he never meant to hurt anyone. He didn’t want anyone to be negatively affected by what he was doing. It may be true that he had no intention to cause anyone harm.

One of the last texts he sent me, perhaps the last one, went something like this: “I am very sorry that I have hurt you and your mother and your siblings by what I have done.” The crazy part of the text is that at the time he sent it he was on his way to go spend time with another woman and her family. At the very moment he was apologizing for hurting me, he was also abandoning me. He regretted the pain his actions caused, but he did not regret the actions he took.

Even though I didn’t know at the time he was running away, I still saw the text for what it was and called him out on this half apology, but I think what he did say was true. I think he was careful to phrase it so that it was true. He really didn’t want anyone to be hurt by what he did. He didn’t like hurting people. He just wanted to think lustfully about other women who were not his wife and have sex with them. He just wanted to be free from the pressures of being in a committed family.

I suspect it is true that he didn’t want to hurt anyone because my experience of him has never been that he has ill will toward others or a masochistic desire to hurt them. However, he has often leaned toward selfishness. He has frequently existed in a self-centered world where he cannot see past his own desires. His adultery was him choosing to enclose himself completely in a world where only he exists. The only reality that exists to him, the only reality that matters to him, is how he feels and what he wants. He did not care that his actions would hurt others. He apologized simply because he didn’t like feeling bad that he hurt others.

He didn’t have a personal vendetta against me, but that doesn’t make his actions impersonal. He hurt me just as bad as he would have if he would tried to. He never meant to hurt me, but he didn’t care enough not to. An odd part of me almost wishes he was angry with me. I wish he had something against me. I wish he was trying to hurt me with his actions, at least then I would be important enough to him that he had some sort of negative feelings toward me. I would have mattered in some way, even a negative one.

One of the most frustrating things about seeing him existing in this self-centered world where he doesn’t see or care about others is that I sometimes am self-focused in the same way he is. I can live as no one else exists. I can curl up in my little cocoon where I am the only person I can see and my desires and feelings and wants are the only things that matter to me. I can sometimes do things that hurt others that I never intend to hurt others. I was just being selfish and didn’t care enough to think about the effect that my actions have on other people

Sometimes, you probably are too. There are many reasons we might live selfishly. Sometimes we are hurting so bad we can’t see past our own pain. Sometimes we want things so bad we go after them regardless of consequences. Sometimes we don’t believe that we matter enough to actually be able to hurt other people. We think we are so unimportant that no one really cares what we do, and if we are inconsequential to them, then our actions can’t hurt them.

The way out is to live in light of the truth. The truth is we all matter. The truth is we have all been given choices that have great power to impact those around us. The truth is that a self-centered world is a very small and dark world. The truth is that we won’t get over our hurt without focusing on others and building relationship with them. The truth is that the selfish things we want that will hurt others are empty and destructive to both others and to ourselves. Those things will never give us what we want, because what we really want, what will really bring fulfillment to our heart is intimacy with God and others. A selfish life only brings more emptiness and loneliness.

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Some Different Thoughts On Love: The Ancillary Concept of Loving Oneself

January 29, 2010 4 comments

“‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these”. – Mark 12:30-31

Many people disagree with what I’m about to say. I’m pretty used to it. :). I do think what I’m about to talk about is true, but I would love some discussion on this topic because I know amongst readers of this blog there is a diversity of opinion. And some of you readers are both discerning and great writers, so make my life a little more interesting and post a comment.

In the last 5 years, I’ve heard this statement and variations of it 100 times, “You have to learn to love yourself before you can love others.” The statement is based on Jesus’ claim that loving your neighbor as yourself is the second greatest commandment. I don’t have a problem with an individual loving who they are, not by any means. However, I don’t think it should ever be a focus for someone to learn to love themselves in order to learn to love others. Here’s the deal, the thing that gets in the way of people loving others is not them not spending enough time caring about themselves, but by spending too much time and thought on their own well being.

There are some contendable things I believe about self-love that are the result of personal experience. I believe people naturally love themselves with their actions. I think this love is perverted and unhealthy, but I would define it as twisted form of love, and so, still love. It seems to me that the people with the worst self perspectives are frequently some of the most self focused. They don’t have a very high view of themselves, but self-love and self-perception are not the same thing. I don’t have a very high view of the rapist, but I care deeply for him. The cutter doesn’t think they’re worth much, but they cut because it does something or they hope it will do something for their emotional well being, whether that be getting attention or numbing their pain. One who commits suicide does so because they hate their life so much that they want it to end. They are fulfilling their desire of not having a life and so caring for themselves. Those that run around trying to please everyone are only focused on pleasing everyone because they are desperate for everyone to like them or to be happy. They run around to please everyone because they are looking out for their own emotional well being. It’s self-love even though on some level it looks like its about caring for others. I could give a number of other examples. I hope my contention is made, however, that a lack of love for ourselves is not really the problem. Self love is what we do.

Another problem with the idea that we need to learn to love ourselves before we can love others is that it doesn’t say it anywhere in Scripture. If this was such a vital concept to understand before we could live out the second greatest commandment, don’t you think that God would have mentioned it? But He never really says that. He says other things, such as “in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). He implies that it is inherent in each of us to look to our own interests, but looking to the interests of others (“having the same love” phil 2:2) requires some effort on our own part. It’s doesn’t come instinctively. I do believe there is something necessary we need to do before we can love others to the fullest. And I believe Jesus tells us precisely what that is.

The first commandment is greater than the second and perfects the second. Loving God is necessary to both love others in a pure way and to love oneself in a healthy way. If we don’t love God, I don’t think we can appreciate just how valuable every person is. If we can’t understand their value, we can’t care about them in ways that honor and bring out their value. The reason people are worth loving at all, the reason it is so important to care about others is that they are made in the image of God. If we don’t love God, we certainly aren’t going to be able to appreciate His image in others. And if we don’t love Him first, far above ourselves and far above others, then all of our acts of love, toward ourselves and others are going to be always perverted and frequently destructive. Only when He is first can we love others well. I think that loving ourselves is ancillary because if we love God, we’re going to appreciate ourselves.

I do think our self-perspective is important, but if we’re focusing on that, we’re being self-centered and self-loving. People don’t have a hard time with a negative self perspective because they need to learn to see themselves in a more positive light, they have a hard time loving themselves because they need to learn to see themselves less. When, instead of focusing on us, we focus on loving God, His reality becomes our reality. We stop being so arrogantly self centered with our self-demeaning attitude, and we put God before us, loving Him over all and in so doing, we recognize His image in ourselves.

Silly Little Things

August 11, 2008 Leave a comment

You know when I ask, “Why God, why?”  It’s not when I see something horrible on TV where hundreds of people die or when I hear horrible stories of what has happened to individuals.  I understand why that stuff happens.  I don’t even ask “Why?” when terrible things happen to me or to those that are most intimate with me.   My soul understands how the fallen world is an evil one and I am content to know that a good and loving God is there in the midst of all pain.  I ask God why when the little things come up.

Today I got a bee sting.  I’ve had many bee stings in my time.  I don’t even really mind bee stings.  They are usually surprising and unpleasant, but not a big deal.  Today, even though I didn’t mind the bee sting or care that I got stung, things were different.  My body started itching and I could feel my lips getting numb.  Then my eyes started itching and my hand and face started swelling a lot.  This progressed and eventually I had to go into freaking Urgent Care.  So stupid.  These are the things I just don’t get.

At least with pain and suffering, there is meaning in it.  Being hurt and experiencing evil suck, but their very suckiness draws me before the throne of my loving God, compelling me to find life, wholeness, beauty, and goodness in him.   Because the experience is more significant, it drives me toward the pursuit of significance and the negative force against me builds my character.  But this little piddly stuff, this stuff I hate.

I hate it when a car breaks down.  I hate getting a debilitating fever.  I hate getting stung by a bee and suddenly having it be a life-threatening situation.  It feels like such a waste of time, money, and thought processes.  It completely interrupts my schedule and makes my time totally unproductive, and yet it is such a small deal.  It’s a bee sting, who cares?!?!?!?  The crappy part is, now I can’t just get stung by a bee, take vengeance, and go about my merry way.  Now I might die every time I get stung.  Why God?  Why all of the sudden am I now not impervious to bee stings?  Why didn’t you just keep me from getting allergies?  Why didn’t you just take away my swelling and heal me so I didn’t have to waste your time and money on petty things?  I know God is capable, He just didn’t do it.  Humorously, and revealingly for those that see through me, I kind of wanted my lungs to swell up and suffocate me to death instead of going to the hospital.  It would have been my way of spiting God.

I think highly of myself.  I think I’m worth a lot.  I think my money is precious because I work so adamantly to spend it in a way that loves God by making a difference in the lives of people.  Because I spend my money well, then I think God should give me more and free me from being forced to spend it.  I think my time is precious.  I think that my time is worth more than insignificant trips to the hospital.  I have always had a strong body that responded well when fighting illnesses and didn’t overreact to things, therefore I should not have life threatening body related issues at age 23.

The main problem is not that my time was wasted today, that I had to spend money on health care, that my body swelled up, or even that I will now always have to worry about bees.  The problem is that I still suffer from a soul of pride.  My time really isn’t worth that much.  I don’t spend all that much time doing significant things.  When I do, I’m really not that effective, and when I am, it is only when God is.  I really don’t spend my money that well.  I think too much of myself.  I’m really not impressive.  I’m really not that good.  I really don’t deserve God freeing me from my possibly deadly allergic reaction.  It’s his prerogative to allow me to have it and take it away.  If He wants me to have it, that is perfectly just and fair.  If He chooses to remove it, that is only because of His mercy that give me an undeserved gift.  It is not my job to spite God or make Him act how I think He should, but it is my job to love God and act how I think He wants me to.  I cannot let pride take hold or keep hold.  I have to see the bigger picture , see the reality that even a mundane trip to urgent care is loaded with meaning and purpose when I am humbly living a life oriented toward God alone, and not to myself.  Sometimes (read: almost always) I have trouble living out all that I know to be true.

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