Thursday, May 01, 2008

Loving the Truth, part 2

More on Thomas a Kempis' seed thought about the necessity of learning to love the truth no matter where it comes from if we are to pattern our lives after Jesus Christ.

It seems that in loving the truth, there are competitors. Things I can love more.

Like what I think. What I believe. What I know. All of which--and I don't think it's a very big stretch to say this--are tied up with my reputation, aka 'how I think I am perceived by the people I think are important.' It goes almost without saying that our list of who we think is important, based on our actions, usually goes beyond the people we first bring to our mind on that subject.

It seems that reputation and truth are often mutually exclusive (though this doesn't always have to be so).

If I love my reputation and what you say tarnishes something I've always thought. I'm probably going to get defensive (unless, as Proverbs 9:8 notes, I already happen to be wise). I can't be made the fool, so I must prove you wrong. Real conversation is then short-circuited in favor of posturing, image-management and subtle or not so subtle one-upsmanship.

If I love my reputation and something you say or do tarnishes how people will see me (in my perception), then I'll probably lie to cover it up. My reputation is too important to have it ruined by the truth. "How could I possibly get over this blow?" "How could my relationships go on like they've been?" "How can I continue doing my job?" "My ability to get things done will be gone." etc. goes the thinking.

Maybe what I say next won't be a 'whopper' of lie, maybe it will even be factually accurate, but it certainly won't be full-disclosure. My self-worth has become entwined with what you think of me and so the truth has now become my enemy.

I'm sure there are more instances of reputation vs. "x" that could be mined here.

Bottom line is that there has to be something bigger, or as Augustine noted, "something I love more than" my reputation for truth to take real root in my heart and mind. John was on to some serious psychological insight in his 1st letter: We love because we have been loved, not because we have our own back-warehouse supply of love from which to draw.

It is the fact, the reality, and the perceived feeling (something I think is just as important as the fact of the thing) of being loved by God that allows me to stop demanding satisfaction for my reputation and so to love the truth.

I know of no other way to live in this than to be in rich, thick community where an actual person regularly reminds me that I actually do matter and to daily begin the day accepting the love of God into the darkest and lightest places of my soul. Or as Tony Campolo says it, I must "surrender to God in the stillness and there let him invade me."
The monument above in Zwolle, Netherlands reads: "Here Thomas à Kempis lived in the service of his fellow man and wrote 'Imitation of Christ'"

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