Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Chameleon Turning Plaid

Hey, I’m trying! I’m trying!
Easy question: What do all these statements have in common?

It’s locker room talk — it’s one of those things.

If everybody’s watching all of the backroom discussions and the deals, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.

Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.

Answer: They take for granted that speaking out both sides of one’s mouth is perfectly normal.

Your Heart Knows

While a bit cynical, they’re not completely wrong. They’re acknowledging that human beings often say things they don’t mean, and don’t say things they do mean. Facts of life in a fallen world. The writer of Ecclesiastes advises:
Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”
Very true. I remember well the struggle I had as a teenager in keeping the various sectors of my life discrete. I presented one persona at home, another to my school friends and a third to my acquaintances at church. With some I got drunk and swore, with others I sang and read the Bible. Consequently, when I happened to bump into a girl from youth group while walking home from with the guy who sat next to me in English, I was like a chameleon trying to turn plaid. It couldn’t be done.

I don’t think I was unusual in this respect, but it was not a comfortable way to live.

The Fragmented Persona

I see kids on Facebook and Instagram struggling with their own fragmented personas. They’re eager to present themselves in the most flattering light possible, and social media encourages the delusion that they can shape perception by managing who is allowed to see what, through selective editing, spin or even outright fantasy. The fun comes when they’re exchanging salty anecdotes with their school pals and forget that they’ve imprudently ‘friended’ their brother or their aunt: reality comes crashing in for all the world to see. I love the selfie of a teen with badly Photoshopped fake six-pack abs. Amidst plaudits from his friends sits this one-liner from his dad: “Kevin, stop making a fool of yourself”.

Oops. It would be sadder if it wasn’t so entertaining.

Right. Sorry. Let me carry on here.

A Harmonious Whole

While it is increasingly rare, there is real value in cultivating personal integrity, not least because it is simple. Being characteristically straightforward and honest eliminates the inconvenience and potential embarrassment of always keeping track of what one might have said and to whom one might have said it. It allows a person to be relaxed and natural in a way that perpetually playing one role or another does not.

I don’t often use the Catholic Dictionary, but I like its definition of an integrated personality:
“The moral condition of a person whose various faculties and powers are united into a harmonious whole, resulting in easy and effective adjustment to the changing circumstances of life.”
“A harmonious whole.” Doesn’t that have a certain appeal?

An Open Statement of the Truth

The apostle Paul says, “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways”. He’s talking here about how he goes about preaching the gospel — without spin, manipulation or selective editing of scripture — but the principle applies to every area of life, does it not? “By the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

It seems to me that Christians should BE an open statement of the truth. Truth should not just be a thing we tell the world from time to time when given opportunity, but something to which we are a living testimony in every aspect of our lives.

Or, you know, we can just keeping doing that chameleon thing.

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