Truth and Courage

definition of courage

The word “courage” and the word “truth” are intimately connected…in my book, anyway. While the word courage is often identified with magnanimous feats in history, of war heroes and historical figures and fictional super heroes, I think its most important function is as the foundation for truth. Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, speaking your truth takes more courage than most would admit, especially, given the temperament of the world today. Given the blatant disregard for truth that exists within powerful hierarchies and the level of sophistication of the lies told, it becomes an even greater challenge to recognize what the actual truth really is so that telling the actual truth becomes an even more courageous exploit. In order to combat the pathology that a culture of lies create…we all need to embrace the courage to tell our own personal truths first, and then stand together when those talented liars who lie try to attack us for it. Once you stand for truth, I’ve found, it is intolerable to accept or perpetuate lies coming from anybody else. And it is speaking out against those lies where courage is so necessary…because there are plenty of people in the world who are not only content with those lies, but thrive on them.

Stripping down the illusions that I surrounded myself with took the greater part of my lifetime and I found the courage to wipe those illusions away in large part because of my faith and a deep experience of unconditional love of God and also those brave souls who’ve shared the stories of their hearts and showed me a different facet of life through their experiences. Being on the beneficiary side of those personal stories revealed to me a broader truth and with every story a greater perspective. Championing truth requires perspective, and since I only have one set of eyes and limited control over my physical movement I often depend on listening to other perspectives to expand and form my world view. As I’ve mentioned before, truth is not two dimensional, it demands we move and try and see things from a different angles and perspectives. Once you strip your own life from illusions it isn’t as difficult when listening to another’s perspective to tell who is being truthful and who is either lying to themselves or has too high a stake in believing the lie. That was a hard statement to write because am I not prescient (well, maybe a little), and certainly don’t want to inhibit anyone from telling their story, but this isn’t about judgement, its about truth. I want everyone to be able to share their truth…I’m just saying that there are some criteria that I use in deciding whether or not I allow their perspective to shape mine or not.

Fear is the first condition I have for rejecting someone’s perspective. Perpetuating fear is the opposite of courage, and is the true cause of hatred in this world. Please let me be clear, being afraid is not the same thing as rooting one’s perspective in it and using it to justify your choices and behavior. Because fear is the greatest illusion of all, truth cannot exist in someone who roots their ideology in fear (1John 4:18), I don’t care if what they are afraid of is the devil, a political party, race or gender, or an intimate partner. It is embracing courage to face your fears and not be controlled by them that frees your heart to speak your truth. And speaking that truth literally makes you free and will distinguish you from the rest of the population who simply succumb to lies that feed their fears.

The second condition is the willingness to change. This is a bit of a slippery slope, because I certainly am not talking about being malleable, to change in accordance with everybody else. I’m also aware that change happens over time and never all at once. I’m talking about the willingness to make necessary changes that must be made in a person’s life when things aren’t working, or honesty when you decide you’re just not ready to make a needed change. Change, while inevitable, is still one of the things that is hard for most people, and it takes a lot of courage to do so. We tell people up front at our clinic that we can’t “fix” anybody without their help. If they are unwilling to change bad habits, there is nothing we can do to help them turn their health around…the individual themselves is the change agent, not those who are supposed to magically fix them. And there are those who will try and convince you that “they” can fix you. It’s just not true. I am the superstar in this equation, I make the changes, I reap the benefit for doing so.

The third condition are those who refuse to take responsibility for their lives and blame others for their life challenges. People who are never responsible for anything that happens in their lives and can point a finger at everyone else but themselves, are not being courageous or truthful. Again, while there are plenty of people who are tragically victimized or face tragic circumstances, I am not talking about them. I am speaking about those who consciously refuse to proactively engage in finding a solution to any problem they face, and instead find a scapegoat to vent their rage and frustration, even if they turn it inward on themselves. While blame may give momentary solace, it never fixes anything and is the source of some of the greatest conflicts in history.

Lastly, are those people who allow structures and institutions in our world to  control them and tell them who they should be in a way that redefines them according to to the acceptable norms within the structure or institution. They tell them who they should be instead of who God created them to be. While I understand civilized people embrace certain behaviors, like the golden rule for instance, those structures whose purpose is only for power and control and superimpose a perspective at the detriment of an individual…I reject. So when someone tells me that God deplores homosexuals, or black people are inferior, or illegal aliens don’t deserve humane treatment, or their “faith” is the only true faith, I know right away they really don’t understand God at all.

All in all, I think truth and courage go hand in hand. It is difficult to share your truth when there are people who would condemn you and judge you for it. It also takes courage to speak truth to power again for the same reasons. I struggle at times worrying about the consequences of the words I speak, I’ve had my share of condemnation and judgment too. But the alternative would be to lie and that’s just not possible at this stage of the game. So, today I pray for courage and to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart.

 

Truth vs Fear

fear

So here’s something all humans have in common…we are all afraid of one thing or another. Here’s another thing…it’s not always clear what exactly it is that we are afraid of, and that is where truth becomes essential, otherwise, it’s difficult to control the negative behavior that fear inspires. Just google: fear as a source of negative behavior, and you’ll see what I mean. From a theologian’s perspective…fear is the antithesis of love, and will impede the work, the gifts, the power of God.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love 1 John 4:18

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba,  Father!” Romans 8:15

Peace  I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

Truth, is the armament of love.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And truth will keep fear at bay…but not if we don’t face it, accept that we have it, and work to overcome it. At the core of Christianity is the belief that on our own, salvation is impossible, but with God, ALL things are possible. My struggle in my over inquisitive mind is this: If this is true, then after all this time, where is the ALL possible? What are we, as Christians, doing wrong? While the answer to that question is demonstrably huge and complicated, I keep coming back to fear and behavior. When we let fear dictate the course of our actions and behavior, we do not act in accordance with the belief that in God we can do all things. It is a direct affront against that basic tenet. And well, that sucks because I come face to face with fear every day. Questions like: Am I enough, Did I do that right, Was that unkind, should I do more…the list is endless. When I am truthful about my fears, however, and ask God to help me overcome them…the power of that fear fades. More importantly, when I face the consequences of fear based behavior, I become even more determined to not let that behavior dictate future decisions…because those decisions have never taken me to a better place, ever.

I will also say this: pretending that we are not afraid, or pretending that fear is justified gives it strength over our future behavior. And if we can’t handle personal fears and the behavior it inspires, there is no hope that we can conquer fear on a larger level. I just don’t think its possible. And I don’t mean any of this in the way of chastisement, not at all. It should be a source of great comfort to know that nothing will stand in the way of God’s love for us and any and all the fears out in the world. It should cause a huge wave of relief.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid?

Magical Thinking

magical thinkingBelieving in the causal relationship between actions and events that can’t be justified simply by reason and observation is a tripping point for many who have a hard time embracing a life rooted in faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t. Not because I choose to believe in magic, but because I believe that there is so much more that exists beyond human limitation and comprehension. For me to believe that the vastness of the universe is limited to the four dimensions of space and time simply because that is all the human mind has evolved to, as yet, is just as absurd. There is plenty of science out there with feasible theories that speak of multiple dimensions…and I’m ok with that too.

My point is that suspending my limitations for a moment, and trusting that there is an omniscience that holds us in dear regard, is as feasible as the probability that there are dimensions beyond the four we experience as science suggests. It is as simple as that, in my mind. When I look around at the insanity going on in the world today, mostly in my own country, with gun violence, racism, and (true to the promise I made at the beginning of the year to speak without filters), idiots like Donald Trump running for president, who is more a candidate for magical thinking that anyone with religious belief (and if there is anyone out there reading this who actually thinks the Donald has a real place in this election, I will pray for you). Why is it any less reasonable to believe in God, than America being the home of the free and the brave? Contrary to what you might think, there is more reasonable evidence of God in the world than America being reasonable and brave.

Hold on, before you freak out…because God only knows a true American would never, could never criticize their birth place. America will never be the country it is touted to be, when the freedom to carry a gun, unhindered by any rules outweighs the ability for any citizen to live free. It isn’t a left-wing, liberal notion to believe that the gun violence in this country has gotten out of hand…it is just the opposite, it is reasonable and observable. It isn’t a marker of bravery to hold onto a weapon for fear that someone is out to get you, just the opposite. Living in fear certainly isn’t living free. A true example of magical thinking is the belief that a gun will keep anyone safe from the “bad guy” often portrayed as a person of color, a different sexual orientation, a different ethnicity. And it is just as magical to think that those shallow distinctions of race, color and sexual orientation are an inherent threat to anyone’s freedom. Our own violence, lack of reason and false observations created the present environment. And only until and when we can embrace something more than can be reasonably seen and understood by our own limitations, the violence, the hatred and the absurdity will continue. I, for one, can’t let that happen. While my belief that grace has freed me from sin instills a deep hope for the future of humanity, it hasn’t freed any of us from the responsibility to stop the future sin. Let’s leave the magical thinking to Donald Trump and focus on the kind of leadership that actually has the courage to see the problem and fix it.