What It's About

TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Why self-love is a hope that leads to despair

“Forgive yourself.” “Be kind to yourself.” “Love yourself.” And a common one I’ve often been guilty of in encouraging people: “Be gentle with yourself.” All well-meaning turns of phrase, but utterly empty in spiritual usefulness; the equivalent of high-GI sugary fast food.
Self-love is everywhere these days, not least in social media; even among those confessing faith in Jesus. Ever present throughout humanity, as much a part of our predilection to sin, in this day it’s inescapable and it permeates even (especially) the church, which should be well saved from a God-bypassing ‘love’.
Little wonder it does not work.
But, alas, we are human beings! We’re destined to try to fix ourselves! Why not add a little of our own pitiful strength to ourselves in our weakness?
Why not?
Because, it does not work…
It’s in our weakness we are compelled to add more weakness in the vain hope it will make us strong. But strength only comes when we are honest with God about our need for God. Love cannot and does not come from ourselves for ourselves.
This age has sucked us in. Others do it so it gives us permission to sin a little. Whether it is grandiose self-absorption, social-media-worthy photos, family and other celebratory reveals (which present the image we’re superiourly blessed, which creates envy in others), or flaunting religious favour itself, matters little — celebrity is a common idolatry to engage in, celebrities are demigods, we are all fans of someone or some-thing, and it’s all a road to nowhere dressed up as heaven, and when so, utterly devoid of God.
All roads to nowhere are a journey to confusion and spiritual frustration because we strive for a meaning that can neither satisfy nor be mastered. And the worst of it all is the practice of a bold self-assurance that isn’t aware or does not care to change.
if we strive for the right thing,
the best thing,
the counter-intuitive thing,
we will be satisfied.
There is a love that works!
I understand why the world is swept up in a romance over self-love. It seems so common sensical.
Why do we go for it? Simple. It’s the opposite direction to self-hate, which is literally sweeping the world in waves to the devil’s delight. Self-love is no match for those voices of self-loathing we all hear emanating from within ourselves from time to time. (Okay, it’s only those who will admit it.)
Self-love might fix the immediate craving, like a cigarette for a nicotine hit. But soon enough, that empty reality impresses itself again upon our consciousness. That existential grind! It won’t go away. We cannot fix this. There is a hole in us that is filled but one way.
There is one way of combatting this self-loathing that binds itself to our mind.
There is a way, but it isn’t what we expect. There is only one love that can help.
A love beyond every vain idol we would otherwise cling to.
It is first necessary to mention why self-love is ludicrous. How can a person who battles with self-loathing address it in and of themselves when they cannot control that self-loathing voice within themselves?
Self-love is used as an attempt to control
something we have no control over.
We do not want to admit to ourselves that we’re out of control, or that we cannot control every iota of our lives. If we’re honest, that’s a scary thought. And we do not naturally want to give our remaining control over to God, which faith requires, which is trust, when we prefer self-reliance or other-reliance. Shudder the thought, many do think, to give whatever power we have to God!
But the supremacy of love exists in letting go of that which can only harm us.
We must trust ourselves to this love that is found only in allowing ourselves to be loved. Self-love cannot ever be a form of belovedness.
What a cosmic paradox it is:
we must let go of our self-love,
to grasp how beloved we are.
The very use we make of self-love suggests we’re in denial. Self-love is used to combat its opposite. The use of self-love suggests we need it, because we engage in self-loathing. And because we engage in self-loathing, we must now agree that self-love is a journey in futility. It cannot work, because it comes from within us who engage in self-loathing. Follow the logic?
We can’t be loved by someone who loathes us.
If the love we love ourselves with is partly hate
we truly don’t believe such a love really is love.
Somehow, deep down inside each one of us,
we feel we’re unworthy of unconditional love.
God must prove to us we are love-worthy.
God did this on the cross.
We need a love that is external to us;
that which is sourced beyond what
our own resources can create.
A love that comes from within
too often doubts its own sincerity.
And a broken love,
a love from within brokenness itself,
is destined to fail us most
when we are feeling most broken.
The love we need is the love that is perfectly unconditional and eternally available — the truest, surest love known, which is also the only true and sure love. But this love is also commonest for rejection. We reject it because, again, we hate relying on what is external to us, and we think that trusting it is hard or ridiculous. It doesn’t feel safe. It feels like too much of a sacrifice.
External reliance is the relinquishment of control. We cannot control God, but we also cannot control life. And we cannot experience God’s love without letting go. Yet, it’s the best risk we can ever take. This wholly trustworthy love is 30, 60, 100-fold better than any love we can pretend to bestow on ourselves.
Self-love is a road to nowhere,
but God’s unconditional love
is paved like a golden highway
to the blood-drenched cross of Jesus Christ,
and never apart from it.
To confess our poverty of spirit,
to be emptied of our pride and sin,
is to bear our cross with Christ,
in identification with Jesus,
trusting God knows best;
and in this, the Holy Spirit fills us
with the Father’s love,
to the ends of peace, hope and joy.
The cross is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To know it is to know love;
how God came down to raise us up;
the bewildering depths of love in grace
that forgives our guilt and sets us free
to live as if we were already in heaven.

Photo by Emmanuel Bior on Unsplash

Monday, January 28, 2019

Don’t even the score, just be something more

Reached out to someone, made yourself vulnerable, and been dissed? In giving your love away, has the other person responded with ambivalence? Their response was “Meh, whatever!” Yours was, “What!?”
You’ve loved them generously and they don’t reciprocate. It’s like the offer of a firm handshake that’s reciprocated with a limp-fish hand. We know it’s their weakness but it’s enough to rile us into taking offense. We can be understood for thinking “kindness doesn’t cost anything, so why can’t you reciprocate my kindness?” It’s a fair point.
But one thing that’s silly is responding out of our hurt in a worse offense than theirs was in the first place.
What do we do with the disappointment of an unreturned gesture of love?
There’s the common reciprocation — hurt for hurt — but they probably don’t even perceive they hurt you! So, there you are feeling hurt without having a response to create understanding in them. No matter what you say or do, you will probably not convince them.
There is a gospel response, however, that works occasionally. We don’t respond in the way I’m describing for the guarantee that it will work, because there are many times it won’t work. That it works or not is not to be our motive.
This is all we need to remember:
When someone hurts you, be something more.
We all appreciate receiving this sort of grace, so why would we not be prepared to consistently give it?
Transcend their lack of love with a love that can only come from God. This kind of love does not look for reward. It chooses to act in love and kindness and grace because it can. Because it’s the right thing in humility to do. It’s not about what they do and don’t do. Life is about what we do and don’t do.
This kind of response, in every actuality of Christlike faith, we’re all capable of, all the time.
When someone hurts you,
be something more.
When they ignore you,
empathise for their lack of love.
When they yell at you, speak gently and calmly
communicating you’re no threat.
When they leave you out of something,
think about how you might include them.
Even if they sneer at you,
resist both fear or anger.
A strange power embodies us when we continue believing for the best. In not second-guessing the motives of other people, giving them the benefit of any doubt we have, we have a better chance of winning them to self-reflection. There are some who are never won over, however — those who never reciprocate our love — but we need to remind ourselves that our continued grace toward all people is a sign of God’s work in us.
It’s not about us at all, apart from being attuned to being an instrument of God’s love and peace.
But then there are those toxic individuals for which only boundaries will work. If we deem them as unsafe people for us, we may exclude these people from most of our lives. Grace we can therefore afford to extend to them, because we have some control over an otherwise uncontrolled situation.
When we resolve to be something more, we “keep our love on,” we resist insulting them because we were hurt, and we give the relationship space for God’s grace to work between the two of us.
Don’t resort to even the score,
but resolve to be something more;
focus on the good Lord above,
and convert earthly hurt to love.

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

Friday, January 25, 2019

Happy Significance Day, Australia

“What is it that Australians celebrate on 26 January? Significantly, many of them are not quite sure what event they are commemorating. Their state of mind fascinated Egon Kisch, an inquisitive Czech who was in Sydney at the end of January 1935. Kisch has a place in our history as the victim, or hero, of a ludicrous chapter in the history of our immigration laws. He had been invited to Melbourne for a Congress against War and Fascism, and was forbidden to land by order of the attorney-general, R. G. Menzies. He had jumped overboard, broken his leg, gone to hospital, failed a dictation test in Gaelic and been sentenced to imprisonment and deportation. When the High Court declared Gaelic not a language, Kisch was free to hobble on our soil...”
— K. S. Inglis, Observing Australia (1959 – 1999)
Reading this short account gives you some glimpse into the ‘vibe’ that is Australia. There is an innate eccentricity and humour involved in living in Australia and being Australian.
What is laughable about the story Inglis tells is that the ‘undesirable’ Kisch was forced to write the Lord’s Prayer out in an Irish language, not English! It was entirely within the rights of the authorities under the White Australia Policy to subject an immigrant to a test they could not pass! The High Court saw the joke, had a good laugh, and promptly overturned the decision allowing Kisch to enjoy Australia provided he not go around burning ants with a magnifying glass.
But one thing is clear. The 26th of January is a very significant date. As Ken Inglis cites, many Australians have been completely unaware of the date’s significance, though I expect more will have some idea now than in previous generations. Thankfully, we have a much clearer idea about our national heritage now than ever before.
For some, Australia Day represents invasion and the deplorable massacres of whole communities of Aborigines. For others, it’s about the arrival of ‘civilisation’. Some are more astute: they know their history; it was the date in 1788 when the first fleet arrived. And for many, the 26th of January simply represents outrage and division. There is no arguing one thing; it is a very significant day.
In our social media age, there are some from both sides of the political landscape who make more of the Day than is helpful, playing on their choice of propaganda to garner support. Perhaps this divisiveness simmered under the surface in previous generations. I’m only a little over 50 so I’m too young to tell. I’m wondering if our social conscience has been piqued. It has in many. That presents both opportunities and threats to potential for productive change.
Australia is a country very blessed because of its democracy — perhaps something of its ‘Christian’ heritage. Again, I don’t know for sure. Australians seem at their best when they have good natured fun at the expense of no one. It is un-Australian to be mean. But our outrage is turning us into something we’re not. What is most lovable about being Australian is we’ve not traditionally taken offence. But times are changing. When we’re offended, we may then cause offence. Respecting differences is something that defines us when we’re at our best.
I have no qualms with changing the date; none whatsoever. Or, leaving it as it is. But are we losing part of ourselves in the way we’re carrying on about things? Let’s just be Aussies and give everyone a fair go, and that includes passionately allowing everyone to ‘live and let live’. It would certainly help if we could be honest about our history. We live in an enlightened age. No more cover-ups. Let’s look ourselves in the face and face who we are. Let’s not imagine there’s been no harm done. Lament honours all. We do need to give our indigenous brothers and sisters their voice. Let’s also look forward in hope.
We’re a country that does things at, and goes to, the margins; but the threat is we’ll be lost to those influential voices at the margins. We’re a country with a rich immigrant heritage, with Anglo-Saxons leading that way from the beginning.
Our reality at times departs from our identity. We’re a country where just about everyone is welcome. We’ve prided ourselves on not being better than the next bloke. Our togetherness means we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But our humanity has made it that these ideals have not always been upheld. Racism, for instance, is also part of our true identity.
Come on, Australia. Our history is patchy, and it matches our countrywide personality. No Australian ever set their sights on anything silly like world dominion! We’re much too larrikin for that. And that is part of the identity we share in a bond of unity.
It’s time for the quiet majority to rise and spread okker peace, Aussie to Aussie. Smile at each other and have a good barbie. Just my thoughts. Just one mind.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sojourning Smorgasbord – January 2019

Seven articles for January 2019 are linked below. Feel free to share, like or comment on them. I can only promise to interact during the next day or so. Otherwise, next month. Click the titles that interest you below:
Determined diligence beats charismatic feats.
Quiet achievement meets, and faithfulness completes.
Relationships mature when
both sides own their respective fault.
Narcissism is a most nuanced condition of humanity. It helps to simplify the language. Think of it in terms of low empathy with high entitlement, high need for exaltation, with high capacity to exploit. But narcissism is highly nuanced. The worst narcissists are charming as hell. The paradox of narcissism suggests that anyone who can seriously consider they might be probably isn’t; yet the one who deplores the very thought, let alone accusation, there he is! The capacity for repentance is the key.
A good friend will
1) seek to understand,
2) show good care, and
3) help as much as they can.
There I was, waiting for the hearse to arrive, and though it was a beautifully cool summer’s day, God reminded me, through the finality of death, that I’m under constant observation.
This is a widow’s prayer. I recited it for her at her husband’s funeral:
God, give us strength to hold on and strength to let go,
courage to go forward and courage to look back.
Thank you for the joy of memories that are held in the heart,
that bring loved ones alive although we’re apart.
If I take ‘a fence’
(yes, that’s a play on the word ‘offence’)
and put that fence up between you and I,
I put up a barrier —
because I chose to respond in hurt —
I break the peace between you and I —
and I commit to carrying something heavy
at least wherever you or I are together.
Taking ‘a fence’ is onerous and heavy.
But, worst of all, it breaks relationship.
… thankfully a hard year, even a tough decade,
doesn’t characterise the rest of our lives.
And here is an eighth article as a bonus… and I think it’s the best one.
Sometimes we just never understand until
something happens that changes our perspective.

Image by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

Monday, January 7, 2019

From whom do we seek help?

People don’t always need care, but they do always care about what they need. And when people need help, their needs can be aggregated in the combination of three questions. For, people generally only willingly accept help when a few preconditions have been met.
If you’re someone that answers each one of these following questions in the yes, your friendship or relationship is a high priority to someone in need:
Do you understand? There is nothing to offer a person who needs help if we don’t first understand their plight. Those who seek first to understand rather than be understood, per the line in the Saint Francis of Assisi Prayer, are an immediate help, principally through listening — that dynamic art of discerning all of what another person is saying, only some of which is hearing with one’s ears.
There just aren’t enough people in our world that fit this criterion. Too many people in our world are just too absorbed in their own world, not to mention their own problems, to genuinely seek to understand another person. And the paradox prevails, that those who seek first to understand rather than be understand generally have fewer problems, simply because their humility places a higher priority on serving others than being served.
To understand another person is to walk with them as Jesus walks with us. It is a genuine feature of the abundant life that someone can put off themselves and put someone else on. It’s not denying our own needs as much as it’s seeing others’ needs as just as important as our own.
But understanding someone isn’t the be-all-and-end-all as far as help is concerned.
We need to be able to answer someone affirmatively with their second question.
Do you care? The old saying holds; people often don’t care what we know until they know that we care. We may understand, but if we have no empathy, whilst we understand perfectly, we don’t care one iota, as far as they perceive us. (You could argue that not caring is not truly understanding.)
The question, do you care? involves the first step in vulnerability. When someone asks this question they’re saying, I need you to care. That’s not such an easy thing to say. It’s not an easy state of being. But when we need care, we must be able to say we need it. Indeed, people do say it. And they’re hurt when they don’t receive what they need. If someone says it, and they don’t receive the care they need they may stop saying it. And there are so many ways that people ask that we care, and not all these are verbal.
The trust given to the person who understands and cares cannot be underestimated. Even if someone cannot answer the third question affirmatively, the sheer fact that they understand and they care is powerful. They’re already a cogent ally.
A good way to communicate that you understand and you care, is to say, “Wow, that must be hard for you,” or words to that effect, obviously communicated with sincerity according to their perception.
Additional to understanding and caring, the third quality answered in the positive in those who are sought out for help is the question, “Can you help me?”
Not everyone who understands and cares can help. For those who can, an extra premium is placed on the relationship. Sometimes people can help because they’re good problem-solvers. Other times, people are resourceful and can put us in touch with what we need or put us in the right place at the right time. And there are people we go to who can help us directly with the problems we have by the skills, knowledge, experience or expertise that they have. Again, some help purely because they understand and care — when that’s all we need.
There is a saying that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” A friend’s niche is for times of need. It’s when we find who our true friends are. Always, when we’re in need, we’re destined to be surprised who they are and disappointed who they aren’t.
If you’ve helped someone in need,
anyone at their call,
you’ve been a friend indeed.
A good friend will
seek to understand,
show good care, and
help as much as they can.
Acknowledgement to Steve Frost, peacemaking guru, social justice lawyer, and all-round great guy for the idea behind this article.

Photo by J W on Unsplash

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Why Take ‘A Fence’?

If I take ‘a fence’
(yes, that’s a play on the word ‘offence’)
and put that fence up between you and I,
I put up a barrier —
because I chose to respond in hurt —
I break the peace between you and I —
and I commit to carrying something heavy
at least wherever you or I are together.
Taking ‘a fence’ is onerous and heavy.
But, worst of all, it breaks relationship.
Taking ‘a fence’ is always a choice we make. Certainly, we can still make a choice to not associate with a certain person; but making a choice to respond in a way that doesn’t take ‘a fence’ means I can always respect you, no matter what you have done to me. I just will not automatically give you unequivocal access to my life. Yet, there need not be any barrier of offence between us.
Proverbs 16:7 (NRSV) says:
When the ways of people please the Lord,
he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them.
There are certainly times in our lives when we need to protect ourselves from the abuses of others. But just as commonly, and even more so, there is the phenomenon of our taking offence when someone has hurt us. We can separate these persons from our lives without adding insult to them from our injury.
Indeed, the best retaliation is to install a firm boundary
and to install it respectfully with immediacy.
Such a ‘retaliation’ maintains our emotional control.
It resists empowering their pride because we infracted them.
Why give your abuser fuel for justifying more cruel behaviour?
We choose to take offence, and sometimes we may even insist on it, justifying it because it is our right, because we think we are right; that they were wrong. It doesn’t feel like a choice, but it is still the choice.
It’s inherently helpful, indeed it is empowering,
to see the pathology in our thinking.
At this point it is helpful to mention the progression of an idol. According to PeaceWise, we all have good desires that are not always met. We, therefore, are tempted to make demands out of our desires; in fact, we’re doing this all the time.
In other words, in our demanding that our desires be met, our attitude becomes one of judgement, and our behaviour quickly morphs into punishment. In short, we become capable of behaving cruelly.
Our human nature is to punish
those who frustrate our goals; those that hurt us.
It is good to be honest about this.
Of course, there is a better way. Instead of making an idol out of the thing we were offended about, we could simply appreciate the complexity of the conflict we have become aware of. We find it interesting. Instead of feeling offended about their behaviour, or even ashamed for our taking ‘a fence’, we explore and grieve the wrong of the situation with God. Hence, we learn.
It piques our curiosity. We are to remember that there are many factors we cannot understand, let alone comprehend; all we can see is what, for that time, we can see. For instance, how much of their perception is actually theirs? If their perception is theirs and theirs alone, and it is, assuming they are normal like us and have a mind of their own, we are better to accept the complexity of humanity (theirs and ours) in the conflict — given that as far as we’re concerned every other person is basically incomprehensible to us, especially in conflict. It’s only by good grace that people give themselves to us in good favour, and we to them.
Finally, it must be said in all this, that, whilst there are so many of us who take offence, there are those too who give offence as their modus operandi. We must be prepared to leave them to God. (More on this at a later time.)
We dare not arm those who give offence by taking offence.
Acknowledgement: to Rob Douglas for the idea that offence is something we take i.e. we choose to take.

Image: Photo by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash