I’ve been thinking lately about a few thing. I know, I know, you all are either cringing or rejoicing, thinking I’m going to go off on some invective-laden rant about my circles, or people I know, or the government, which will all be very entertaining and invariably make me look like a narcissistic ass with a serious ego problem and possibly a martyr complex. Someone’s going to write me a nice anonymous note explaining how what I wrote is hurtful and possibly borderline inapropriate, at which time I’ll explain how anonymous notes carry all the weight of a snowflake in August (in the Sahara) and some anonymous note-writer will feel as if he or she were slighted when he or she – probably a he, because that’s the way those anonymous notes are composed, grammatically – could have just left a real name so I could interact like a real person with real cojones was on the other end of the keyboard.
See, there, you think I’m a narcissistic ass. But the problem with people leaving anonymous notes is that they either don’t understand the technology they’re using and do it by mistake, in which case they should probably actually read those cute little boxes with text on top of them – they’re not just to make the site prettier! – or stop reading blogs altogether because the concept of social interaction via the web is probably lost to them. The other class of people is probably the ones that would scream at the top of their lungs or at least nicely (and I’ll get to that later) suggest that it’s the internet and everyone can read it! In which case, it’s the internet, it’s not anonymous since you obviously know me well enough to make a point, so why not at least be consistant and leave your name? I’m really not going to track y’all down and pour acid on you while you’re sleeping. I won’t even egg your house – I promise!
That aside, I think my circles suffer from a problem involving people I know meddling in the government. Oooh, a trifecta! No, wait, I’m kidding around. See that? It was a joke. No subtext. I’m making fun of me – ridiculous, I know, but there you have it.
No, what I’ve been thinking is that society in general and Christian circles in particular are suffering from a condition called Nice Guy. You know, the kind of men who seem to think that their duty in life is to be as innofensive as possible, never to step on anyone’s toes, and wear a disarmingly and sickenenly bright smile all the time. These tend to be the same men – and I’m generalising here, so don’t take it too seriously – that will speak nicely to your face and go home and unload all of this on their wives and children, assuming they have them, which in my circles isn’t such a wild assumption. Alternately, they’ll go home and unload on their little invective-laden blogs, where they’ll come off like narcissistic asses with serious ego problems. I know this, ladies and gentlemen, not because I am psychic or so exceedingly wise that I can instantly analyze any problem and come up with a reasonable solution, but because I am that guy.
Yes, yes, I know, some of you who are reading my blog at one of your grown-up friends houses are saying, “But you’re possibly the most in-your-face don’t-care-what-people-think kind of guy I’ve ever met!” And you would, of course, be partly right. I’m not really here to defend myself: what’s the point? I’m not going to change your mind, no matter how wrong your ego might not want to admit you are.
But firstly, I’m not really that guy anymore. I think I caught a virus along the way somewhere and actually decided that the community is a tiny bit more important than my own little silly preferences, and though I’d like to dress in black and suffer heat stroke, and pierce my face with all sorts of pretty little dangly metal things, I don’t. Although I’m not sure I want to do any of those things anymore either. Which is sort of confusing for me, probably like it is for you. I don’t blame you – if I don’t understand me there’s not a chance in, um, purgatory (note that my invective involves a place that doesn’t actually exist, so no worries there) that you’re going to do it – and if that’s not bad enough, my sentence structure leaves as much to be desired as the foundation of that tower in Italy, you know, the one that leans over on its side sort of? Second, I never really challenge anything terribly important. Never really did. A few cute little customs and traditions, and a few droning organs that haunt my sleeping hours, but its not like I showed up at church with a “PORN STAR!” t-shirt, or claimed that Fred Durst was, in fact, the Apostle Paul re-incarnated. And, for crying out loud, I’m wearing a suit to church tomorrow, and I’ll sing at the top of my lungs while the organ chokes out screaming faux-trumpets from its electronic bellows. If something like an organ is that important to some of the older folk – note the term of endearment – well, by all means, don’t take their pretty toys away from them! It’s not that terribly important to me; I’m only a 24-year-old pup whose tastes tend more toward things like pianos and guitars. Let’s not raise a fuss about little things like what sort of music we play in church. And I mean that.
But all this talking about me has really gotten off the track about, well, talking about me. I used to be that guy: if I had had a wife and kids – and thank God I didn’t, because I certainly wasn’t ready for that arduous trek into adulthood – I probably would have sounded off to them about all those little surface things that bother me so much that it breaks fellowship with the all-important people that actually make up the church. You know, the church, that thing that’s about God and his people, not God and whether or not the pastor reads a form from the back of the Psalter Hymnal ™? And I most certainly was that guy who sounds off on his blog – I mean, these blogs, they’re a curse! Okay, I don’t believe that. They’re only a curse when used improperly, like sounding off about stuff that should remain between you and the people that it actually involves. Some darn stupid things made themselves onto the pages of my blog back in the day via my fingers, and since I’m not the perfect man and haven’t learned to bridle my tongue completely they probably still do. Of course, the solution to that isn’t to stop blogging – that’s like telling people that because we say stupid things that we should duct tape out mouths (however fun duct taping out mouths might, in fact, be).
But deep inside of me – and this is partly cultural, due the fact that our culture seems to frown on actual honesty and any offence whatsover, unless a feminist or an atheist is doing it, or even better, a feminist atheist man who’s had himself neutered – is this thing that wants to just get along, sing the Love Jive, and dance with unicorns under rainbows on a hill covered in swaying grass while holding hands with everyone. That part of me has got to go. I mean it. And if you took any sort of offence to this post up to this point because you didn’t actually want to engage the ideas and only want to look at the tone, that part of you probably has to go too. Not because we should all be nitpicking sarcastic losers constantly slapping eachother with flyswatters and pointing out those horrible eye-flecks of our imperfect neighbors, but because if anyone told you that love involves ignoring big problems, then you’re living in unicorn land. Have some Skittles, will you? Everything’s going to be just fine.
Like the elders of my church – they had a problem and they addressed it recently in a letter to the congregation. It was a good thing, because not only are they not hiding under rocks with machetes, ready to go all Antonio Banderas on the first bit of criticism to come their way, but also because they made right. It’s a manly sort of thing to do. It’s not, “Oops, look at the little peccadillo!” Rather, it’s owning up to something and taking resposibility, which is a huge part of leading the church as actual leaders who actually lead with actual leadership.
I had a friend who was tailgating some people the other day for no good reason whatsoever. You know, if my friend tailgates people like that, he could die. Cease to exist. Shiny wood box, lots of people crying, welcome to heaven young tailgating man. So what should I do? Should I say something? Why would I not? I don’t have to be a jerk about it. I don’t have to bang his head on the bumper of his car to get the point across that bumpers and heads do not mix at high speeds. And he could point out that I’ve tailgated people in the past (after all, as I’ve pointed out several times, I’m pretty much imperfect too), but why would he? Am I bringing this up because I’m an anal-retentive asshole who has to have the entire world just so> No, I’m concerned for his safety. Ignoring it, of course, would be nice thing to do, but I’m pretty sure that it would be dead wrong. Note my pun. It was a joke. Levity is a wonderful thing!
In fact, from my 24 year of experience, I’ve observed that the nice guys don’t give and can’t take. You know what? You want to be a man? Then don’t ignore what people say to you and pretend like they’re somehow wrong because you didn’t like the way their voice inflected when they reached the second sentence and that really offends the female side of you wants to go home and cry on your pillow. And I’m not insulting women here, you really do cry more than guys do, okay? What I’m not saying is that presentation isn’t important – part of loving people is not hitting them over the head with the truth. Be gentle. Just don’t be nice. That’s all I’m saying. Not giving and taking criticism when its needed isn’t nice; it’s incredibly selfish. Are you merely a bodily extension of your ego? No? How about your fear glands? No? How about your easily-pierced feelings? No? Good, then you have a head start of me, because I have an ego problem, I fear confrontation, and my feelings are easily injured. I am a basket case of psychological problems stemming from an incident with an extra slice of cake when I was child and the fact that I didn’t get to go skiing enough. Oh, Freud, how you’ve enlightened my childhood! Good for you! But seriously, I have this desire to be a nice guy. I don’t want to be a nice guy. I want to love people, not with a stick, but also not with a egomaniacal emotional sponge-bath that inevitably turns out to be a facade.
Enough of that. I think you get my point. It was a very long point, but I think well made with plenty of pleasant small-talk to bend your mind away from the fact that not only was I talking about me, but I was talking about you! And yes, I mean you you, not the other you.
The other thing I was thinking about is how people tend to get upset if someone things he’s right, especially when the corellary is that others are wrong. Now, this may seem incredibly controversial, but what’s wrong with being right? (Again, there’s something to be said for not being a jerk who’s always right.) And what’s wrong with thinking that I’m right? Let me ask you a question: how do I operate under the opposite assumption? Am I supposed to constantly second-guess myself in order to appear humble? I see absolutely no use in that. Everyone thinks they’re right. They have to – the other possibility leads to madness, or maybe to being a Nice Guy.
Now, I’m only 24. I’m not always right, but when I’ve come to a conclusion in my head about something, why should I doubt it? Here’s where you’ll probably say, “Oh, but how can you be the arbiter of what’s right and what’s not?” Well, how else? Do I form a committee and we take votes? Should I amass a collection of quotes from dead Christian leaders that I can reference every time I think about something?
Hah! You thought I’d say “No!” to both those things. Well, you’re wrong. I’m right. Ding!
I never come to a place of thinking I’m right about something just because I said in my head that I am. Nor am I schitzophrenic, so I’m pretty sure I’m right about that, too. There’s history, scripture, God, friends, Christian leaders, and even tradition to guide the way. History can be wrong, as can friends and Christian leaders (and for some reason, especially tradition). Scripture can’t be. Nor can God. I can, however, get my signals from God crossed and read scripture wrong. On the other hand, I’m surrounded by a whole group of people who have probably wrestled with similar problems and issued before, so I’m not the first bloke to take a shot at this. All that input is very valuable. And once I’ve made up my mind about something being right, you’re right. I am the final arbiter of what’s right, to me. I can’t function any other way. If I don’t truly believe something, I can’t function as if it were true. I trust how most of you can see how silly that would be. On the other hand, I’m quite open to you proving me wrong, as so many of you have done so many time. Or at least once. I forget.
Being right is not a sign of narcissism. It’s a sign of being right. It’s pretty simple. Being wrong and clinging to your idea is narcissism of the highest degree – also known in some circles as being a liberal. No, no, I jest.
Anyhow – that’s long enough. Feel free to disagree. But if you don’t leave your name, I warn you, I will treat your comments as if a monkey had randomly typed it out on a keyboard.
Dan (TOO MUCH TYPING!)