I was “genuinely and lovingly encouraged” by a friend to read an article via facebook. To spare confusion while I try to keep her identity anonymous, this friend will hence forth be referred to as Cookie (Cookie because I love cookies and I want it to be clear how much I love this friend). I was nervous when I started reading, as I often am with Cookie’s chosen articles, because of her past and current accusations against the Christian church. Upon finishing the article I was irritated and left with a pit in my stomach. I felt defensive and angry and scared what will become of our world. Part of me wants to link the article here and tear the author’s misguided opinions apart with my own. But what would that accomplish except to irritate both sides of the argument? I would only succeed in hurting Cookie, who posted it, and putting up a defensive wall every time we were in each other’s presence.
After angry venting to a close friend and receiving some very strict advice to “refrain from posting anything”, I decided to sit down and hash out these issues with myself. I am refraining from even mentioning the actual article and its contents, because this post isn’t actually about that article at all. It’s about the ugly vicious monster that lives inside of me and my fight to keep it from tearing apart other humans.
You see, when I read that article I was hurt by some of the statements. I was “lovingly encouraged” and yet, the article was not written out of love. At first I thought the article was hateful and defensive. How could Cookie possibly think this was helpful? I was so mad and hurt I wanted to comment on Cookie’s post with all the reasons why the article was wrong. I even debated writing a blog post in response to the article dissecting every last “misguided” opinion. In all honesty I still want to, because that hurt is running deep.
Every time I engage in an argument I feel myself crouching down into my defensive posture – a place between fight and flight. I feel like a dragon guarding treasure. The one in the bowels of Gringotts Wizarding Bank to be specific.
I have the ability to cause a lot of harm to someone if they try to loot my treasure (in many cases it’s my self worth). However, if you are familiar with Harry Potter, although the dragon could inflict great pain, it was also trained to back down when it heard the specific sound of the clanker.
The sound induced fear of pain from past experiences and the dragon reluctantly backed away from the treasure, the fear of pain overpowering the desire to guard what was important. I have the same tendencies, although my training isn’t as obvious, because it wasn’t an intentional training, it just happened as I experienced life.
I try to guard the treasure I have hoarded, and with some it’s easy. I fight them off at the first sign of danger. But other people know how to get me to back down and can talk circles around me because my anger gets me flustered and I lose all ability to defend my opinion. Most of the time this leaves me feeling stupid, unheard, not worth listening to, or that my feelings are wrong. Part of me wants to stand my ground and fight back, but the fear of pain is greater than my desire to guard what I think is important. But here is the interesting thing, everything I am guarding is worldly treasure, because it can easily be taken away. I’m not talking about money and possessions here (although sometimes it is that). I am talking about my self worth. I have stored up good opinions, words of affirmation, and personal vanity in my volt. Hoarding them so when I feel bad about myself I can look back in my volt and say “I’m worth it.” Somehow I have attached my self worth to my personal beliefs. If someone doesn’t agree with me, they must be attacking me. Their attack and bad opinion of me is like someone coming into my volt and taking away some of my stored up good opinions (self proclaimed or said by others). I also have lived into the falsehood that I have more hoarded treasure than others because of what I believe – that I am worth more because I believe in Jesus.
The reality of the situation is this. I do have treasure, but not the treasure I thought. When I look to the Lord for my worth and love I am abundantly blessed. Not with compliments or gifts from mankind, but with unconditional love and protection from my savior. And the cool thing about this treasure is that it does not need to be protected by me. It never runs out, so it doesn’t need to be hoarded or guarded. It needs to be shared. So while I am aggressively protecting my self worth or cowering under painful accusations and allowing someone to make me feel bad about myself, my real treasure sits untouched out in the open. It is a treasure that cannot be taken or stolen, only given.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So here I am fighting to protect something that will eventually fade away and refusing to share what is eternal. And not just that, but I’m fighting for all the wrong reasons. I’m not fighting to simply protect myself, I’m fighting to take someone else down. I’m not fighting out of love, I am fighting to prove that my opinion is better, that I am worth listening to, and that I am right. Essentially, I want the other person to fall short of bowing down to me and admitting they are wrong. I am trying to puff myself up by pushing someone else down.
This dragon is no Puff the Magic Dragon, it is an ugly monster.
That part of me is vicious. That part of me couldn’t see that the author and Cookie were expressing hurt. The article itself wasn’t written out of love or hate, just pain. Pain that I may or may not have caused. But my own hurts blinded me and hardened my heart towards the author’s and Cookie’s hurts.
I still don’t agree with what was said and how it was said, but the reality is, I don’t have to. My fury has started to fade with this new found compassion. And instead of fighting pain with more pain, I want to listen. I don’t have to fix the pain, I can’t. I don’t have to claim I know the answers, because really, I don’t. All I can do is share what I have experienced and the peace and love I have found in Christ. Yes, the accusations made against Christians have hurt me. Yes, I feel lumped into a group that can never win against the opinions of the world. But I know otherwise, I know my Lord and Savior overcomes the world.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus does not say “I have told you these things so that you can inflict pain on others when they hurt you.” No, He has told me these things so that I may have peace in a world that is full of trouble. The peace does not come from loudly blasting my opinions. The peace comes from Jesus and the pure knowledge that Jesus’ ways are higher and He fights this battle for me. Sometimes He does call me to stand up, but never to harm someone. He wants me to show the love that He has shown me. I know when he calls me to stand up, because my heart wants to fight for someone not against them. The motivation behind talking is love and not a desire to compete. Winning is no longer about me, it’s about us.
I know in my heart I have already won, because Jesus told me so. That frees me up to be compassionate and loving instead of fearful and defensive. Not a pushover mind you, and not one that gives up on her beliefs. But one who listens and joins in the pain without fear. There is no need for fear, because Jesus has overcome the world.