The Joy List; Mourning to Dancing
Ever regret something you said? Have you wanted to avoid someone of pre-judge them before you knew them, but once you learned more about them, you regretted how you may have treated them or felt like you had missed an opportunity to know someone amazing? We all have lots of regrets. Worrying about the future causes anxiety, but ruminating about the past can often leads to either anger or depression.
While I certainly believe that God is close to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:8), God is with us through our heartaches, including, if not especially when we grieve the loss of someone important to us- it seems that Jesus wasn’t just talking about death and loss. He was explaining that some of the most joyful people are people with consciences.
Oh sure, sometimes it feels like it would be better not to feel. It seems like people without a conscience (sociopaths and narcissists) must have it pretty good. They don’t care about other people’s feelings, they just do and say whatever they want without caring about how it effects (or affects) others. I know I often wonder if I’d be more successful if I just didn’t care.
But how an anyone like that genuinely experience real joy, not just temporary happiness? What they think is contentment is really callousness. What’s worse than hatred? Indifference. These are people that use people and love things, instead of loving people and using things.
They aren’t reflective. They don’t reflect on the things they say and do or who. Maybe because they wouldn’t like what they see. In literature and mythology vampires are creatures that suck the life energy out of others. One of the ways to recognize a vampire, is that they don’t have reflections. Powerful, seductive, even seemingly impervious, but dead. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually dead.
Jesus is telling us that while it’s true that if we live our lives with empathy and compassion, we’re certain to get hurt sometimes, often because we’re selfish and short-sighted human beings so we end up hurting others. That’s called guilt.
It’s important to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Shame destroys but guilt drives us to rebuild. Guilt & shame both make us want to de-construct, but shame is hopeless & helpless, it’s fatalistic and doesn’t want to rebuild, it wants to burn it all down and abandon it. Guilt doesn’t have to be permanent- it’s regret, it’s willing to take responsibility so that you can rebuild, revise, reform, retro-fit and resume being useful.
As much as I hate being trite or cliché, maybe some corny, cheesy kitsch will help. On the one “hand, hurt people hurt people,” and we’ve all been hurt at sometime or another. And “you always hurt the ones you love, the ones you shouldn’t love at all.” Right? And as the Tin Woodsman said in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ “now I know I have a heart, because it’s breaking.”
Mourning over grief- hurting about hurt you’ve caused is proof that you both care about others and are reflective, responsible and mature. You’re not a vampire.
Having a conscience means that you care about people besides yourself and that you are reflective & aware. It means you have standards of decency & respect other people’s rights & boundaries. It doesn’t mean that you have to live in constant shame or self-hatred.
Apologizing or making amends restores relationship. Being humble enough to admit you were wrong builds trust, it doesn’t make you look weak or inferior. That’s universal, even secular. You might even call this “Restorative Justice” on the personal, individual level.
Saying you’re sorry and trying to make amends is a way to be kind. Kindness always brings joy.
Now, if you think of yourself as Christian, think about this- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9.
Be honest about it when you hurt people and both you & they can heal.
Deny it and you’ll probably just keep hurting more people.
Unconditional Love Requires Radical Forgiveness
BOOK REVIEW- I’ve only just started reading ‘Unconditional’ by Brian Zahnd and I have to say Wow. Zahnd gets to the very core of Jesus’ ministry; love & forgiveness. In the first couple of chapters he discusses stories from holocaust survivors Simon Wiesenthal (‘Sunflowers’), Corrie Ten Boom (‘The Hiding Place’), and Deitrich Bonhoffer (‘The Cost of Discipleship’).
This book is from years ago, but here is a YouTube message he gave at Word of Life church in St. Joseph, Missouri a few months ago where he shares the same thing- Jesus’s call for His followers to share radical, infinite forgiveness. Matthew 5:44 Christianity is the only Christianity that can really change the world.
I began following Zahnd on Twitter and reading articles and blogs he’d written a few months ago and the longer I do the more Scriptural I find his theology and the more Christ-centered and love and grace based I find his opinions.
Zahn is the rare antidote for so much of American evangelicalism- neither the legalism, fear and anger of some hypocritical Pharisee types nor the shallow materialistic empty promises of those preaching nothing but blessing and triumph. This is authentic discipleship. Depth of meaning, sincere hope that isn’t based on or dependent on works-righteousness, but at the same time demands change, commitment and real repentance.
He’ll challenge your thinking and your assumptions.
I want my Christian friends who are prepared to put Jesus ahead of all other political, social and philosophical world views to give him a read. They may just find that the Jesus of the Bible and the early church of the New Testament aren’t what Western society would lead us to believe.
I want my friends who are thinkers, readers, skeptics and searchers to give him a read. They may just find that Jesus and the early church are not as far from the likes of Dostoyevsky, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Wiesenthal , MLK, Ghandi and others as American evangelicalism would lead us to believe.
And I want those of my friends languishing in limbo who feel like “the Church” doesn’t want them because they’re too worldly but that “the World” also doesn’t want them because they’re too “religious” to give Zahd a read, because they might just find that they aren’t as alone or isolated as they may have been feeling.
His newest book out is actually ‘Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God,‘ which I wanted to read first, but I couldn’t find it in the major Christian bookstore where I looked and I’ll be honest, I was too cheap to order it online- so, when I looked for it at 1/2 Price Books, I found ‘Unconditional’ instead. I’m glad I did. I look forward to reading ‘Sinners’ next, even if I have to pay full price.