Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

"It is in their 'good' characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self- revelations."
--C.S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost

I had a very interesting exchange with my spiritual advisor today. It was an exchange that started with a story of his own. He told about a time he felt really really hurt by a person he worked with that he knew he loved, and that he knew loved him, in the full sense of platonic Christian love. You have to realize, my SA is a wonderful, kind, truly loving soul, but has a reputation for getting wound up and shooting off his mouth at authority or at people who just "don't get it."

He was in a public situation where questions were being taken from the floor, and he raised his hand, and actually asked a calm, rational, well thought out question. His colleague said later, "Oh, my God, I saw you put up your hand, and I thought, 'Oh, Lord, here it comes,' but I was so relieved you didn't shoot your mouth off."

"And all of a sudden," he said, "I felt really really hurt--crushed, actually--that this person who I THOUGHT knew me, didn't know me at all. That she thought that I was going to blast this person when there was no reason in that venue to blast him. Ok, I admit, if I had been wound up, I would have blasted him. But not in public. In private."

He told me the story because I had a recent similar sort of situation. I've had a run lately of "feeling a little misunderstood." It's odd to discuss it, because mostly these days I feel like I am on a really REALLY good spiritual track. But it has made some bits of friction pop up in my life. I have felt little odd moments of intense volatility among what is mostly a pretty calm place. Maybe it is because for the most part, things are much calmer, so when it does bubble up, I ramp up in a hurry. It has happened with 3 or 4 people that I, too, truly love and respect, and I hope it is likewise. When I have a run of feeling misunderstood, I tend to really close down and don't want to say anything but the most casual things for fear I'm going to be misunderstood again.

I replayed the story in my head on the drive home, using one of his key phrases he uses on me that I both dread and welcome--"What's behind that?" When he asks me "What's behind that?" I dread it, as it is seriously one of the most probing things he asks me. He's asking me to drop the curtain and reveal that I am not the great and powerful Oz. Yet, I welcome it, as I would much rather examine the deeper parts of myself in the third person, and that question allows me to examine myself in a less "personally confrontational" way, so I actually can stand to examine it for a longer period of time.

I am now a little embarrassed that even when he is not there to ask me the dreaded "What's behind that?" question, I am asking it of myself. But I guess that's proof I've grown...that I even will ask the question of myself.

I realized that, in those moments that happen to me just like that, I am hurt because at that moment, I really, truly was trying to be good.

Not that I was good, wasn't good, whatever. It was that I was consciously trying to be on my best behavior, my most polite self, and the truth of the matter is, when I am trying to be good I feel a little like a cheap imitation of Eddie Haskell. Like "That's a lovely dress you're wearing, Mrs. Cleaver," is going to fly out of my mouth.

"Be good."

It's a phrase we've heard all our lives. But for people who are prone to a little envelope-pushing, it becomes almost an invitation to sin. For me, who falls into occasion of sin now and then for shooting from the hip, telling me "be good," is like an invitation to jump the boundary fence and stand at the very edge of The Outer Darkness, staring back towards the light, and suddenly realizing I'm no longer in the light.

There's a family legend about that with me. For years, everyone told the story of a time my grandpa was admonishing me to "be good," as we were about to enter a place where they did not want me to attract negative attention. I was about four or five years old. I blurted out, "But I CAN'T be good. I can only be me."

Sometimes I really hate it when my five year old self was smarter than my 50 year old self is now.

But here's what I figure my five year old self innately knew where my 50 year old self got off track. We simply cannot BE "good." When we truly ARE good, it is because God's goodness is shining through us. When we truly ARE good, it is because we have surrendered our will to the point we are merely a conduit for God's love and God's goodness.

When we are trying to "be" good, we are reacting to the expectations of self or others, and often, it is their (or our) well-meaning, but nonetheless negative, expectations that are hooking us. When others assume without a second thought we will be good, more often than not we will live up to their positive expectations without even thinking. I don't think people, for the most part, throw negative expectations upon us to hurt or manipulate us. I'm not even sure they do it on purpose half the time. But it happens just the same, and when we've actually BEEN good in a setting when we've worked at "being good," their surprise in us not being "bad" wounds us.

The secret, I believe, is to simply learn to "be" rather than "be good." In the act of "being," the burden is no longer placed upon us. Since part of who God IS, is the sum total of goodness, the burden is placed upon him, and he already knows how to handle the "good" part on his own.


Love this post.....

You have given me a new phrase.

"I can't be good, I can only be me."

I am 50+ and I think age has alot to do with our tendency to self-examinate. I have a mind that races ahead of itself and have always been forgetful. Lots of lists and lots of safeguards. But now my inner voice is insinuating I may be growing a little senile. If I lose my footing doing a silly dance with my 2 year granddaughter, I have pictures of a woman walking around with taped glasses and a yellow purple bruise covering half her face. But recently I have decided to "Be Loved" and it translates into lots of good stuff. When someone teases me about one of my human foibles, I find myself joking instead of mentally validating or vocally apologizine.

So I will add your "be" and your "be me" to my "be loved". I think it will make for a better day.

Thanks again for this post

I wrote a post some time back (maybe a year ago?) where I was talking about getting to a place where I felt like the Roman god Janus--able to look forward and back equally.

When we are younger, we only look forward to the "next" thing. I suppose when we get over there on that "elderly" side we will look back more. But there is a place, I believe, that for the first time, people stop and look "exactly where they are," and that requires looking both ways!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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