Tag: mistakes

Love and Vulnerability: Armour

As I have discussed in previous posts, being able to love often requires us to be able to remove the masks and clothing that keep people out. This can be very difficult to do, especially when we worry that others may not like us for who we truly are. It ultimately boils down to one thing, that revealing your secrets, especially the ones that paint us in a negative light, is to expose yourself to potential injury.

Wearing Armour

We are all familiar with the expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. It’s taught to us as children in order to tell us that we shouldn’t worry what others say about us because the words cannot cause you pain.

What a load of crap!

We should all be aware of the damage words can do! Just look at the damage social media can do to someone, especially the young, when they cannot escape their tormentors. Words have a power sticks and stones do not have because they can cut right to the core of you as a person. Someone can zero in on an aspect of your personality or appearance and slowly destroy you.

This is where the armour comes in. Wearing armour protects you from these attacks, allowing you to continue functioning. It protects the core of your being from being damaged. This is something I learned to do at school because I am quite sensitive, so jibes at my person often hurt me quite badly. Or at least I had the appearance of not being able to care, because armour still has weaknesses.

Armour doesn’t just protect us from strangers though. Far more dangerous is the power the people we love have to hurt us. When we let people in, and they can see all of you, your foibles, flaws and damage, you are giving them access to ammunition that can hurt you really badly. When someone you love insults you, they have access to a far wider range of points to attack you for. It also hurts so much more because a level of trust has been broken in the attack; you let them in, and then they did this?! So putting on the armour prevents this kind of damage being inflicted because people never get close enough to access that kind of ammunition.

Rebuke and Weapons

“Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour rather than one who has a flattering tongue.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭28:23‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

We often like to focus on all the nice things Jesus said and did. It’s easier that way. A cuddly Jesus with a warm, benevolent smile, perhaps a small child on his knee telling nice stories to an adoring crowd. And that part of Jesus is definitely real, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the whole story.

In Matthew 23, Jesus takes the Pharisees to task. The Pharisees were the religious elite, the establishment power. They were venerated because of their apparent holiness.

But Jesus saw through all of it. In Matthew 23, he describes them as “whitewashed tombs”! What an insult! It cuts right to the core of their hypocrisy! On the outside, they look completely clean, but on the inside is still a dead, decaying corpse.

This seems really harsh, and it is. But crucially, Jesus wasn’t saying these things to be mean or to try and hurt feelings. Jesus was rebuking out of love, wanting the Pharisees to change their ways and realise their faults.

The chink in the armour

Armour is useful but is also flawed. The more armour you put on, the more you can protect yourself, yes, but it also renders you unable to distinguish between personal attacks and genuine criticism. Imagine a medieval knights helmet, one that covers your whole face. I’ve no idea how they could fight anyone, you can barely see out of them! And that’s a problem because your perspective becomes blinkered. You cannot recognise when someone is criticising you from a place of love.

I was and still am really bad at this. As I said earlier, I am quite a sensitive person, so any attack causes my walls to go up and for me to go on the defensive. But this also means that I fail to tell the difference when someone is telling me something that I do actually need to work on. I get too locked in to a mindset of defence I cannot improve.

I have slowly been trying to work on this. The past year has taught me that this reflexive defensiveness is a serious flaw, one that prevents me from growing. A lot of the time, my friends aren’t saying things to hurt my feelings; they are merely being honest with me about things I need to work on. It’s hard to change an instinctual response, but I hope I can keep doing it.

Having friends willing to rebuke you to make you become a better person is a gift. Don’t squander it.

Checking my Privilege and Changing Myself

We can do this the easy way, or the hard way…”

A huge part of the Christian life is self-reflection. It is baked into the very core of the beliefs I hold; by choosing to be baptised I acknowledged that I am a person in need of changing and that would require a lifetime of examining myself and my actions. Christianity is realising you are broken, but by Gods grace we can be better.

As such, I try to keep myself in check, particularly by trying to be empathetic to someone else’s situation. This is tricky and I often fail at doing so (more on that later), but in the whole I want to try and improve myself. Understanding how others see the world and themselves is a very useful tool to have when dealing with the world and other people. And that’s also understanding how they see me also. When someone looks at me, what do they see?

Privilege

Privilege has become a buzzword in the 21st century, particularly in the past decade. When people talk about privilege, they talk about the advantages you have as a person that help you get further in life. Basically, I got the privilege jackpot; I am a white cis-het middle class male, born into one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. I think a misunderstanding of the conversation around privilege is that privilege automatically makes life easier, and people who do not wish to reflect on their privilege will often point to the existence of poor white people relative to rich black people to “prove” that privilege does not exist. But this is a severe misrepresentation of what privilege means. Having certain privileges does not mean your life would be easy, it just means someone in your position but didn’t look like you would have an even harder time being successful.

I am very much aware that I have been blessed with amazing privilege. It is a shame the things listed in the previous paragraph do give me advantages over others, because the world is a messed up place. I therefore try and be conscious in my interactions that I do have certain power within conversations over others and therefore try and mitigate that. I read the tweets and articles written by women, PoCs and LGBTQ people to try and broaden my perspective and make it less likely that I will make a faux pas.

Buuuuuut that doesn’t always happen.

Learning a Lesson

Life has a habit of trying to teach you things.

Depending on who you are, life can give you easy or hard lessons. I try and maximise my opportunity for receiving easy lessons as opposed to hard ones. for example, I like to read books to learn how others coped with things that might be useful to me. But sometimes life serves you up a lesson that swings in like a fist wrapped in barbed wire. My breakup last year was one of those times; I learned that my unresolved trauma had damaged my relationship and that some of my other more minor flaws (but flaws nevertheless) also contributed to its end. I have thus far done a poor job in addressing these, but I know that I need to work through some stuff in order to move on. But today was another time where I was punched by a life lesson.

Although I try to be aware of my privileges that I listed above, I had a blind spot towards quite an important one; my physical ability. It speaks to a lot about society and the circles that I travel in that I don’t actually know anyone closely who is themselves disabled. I am only dimly aware of issues surrounding disability.

So I was waiting by my staff lift today when a student walked up to the lift, put her card against the reader (I didn’t see if it went green) and tried to get in the lift with me. I told her it was a lift for staff members only, and she very quickly said she was disabled. Now, disabled students have card access to the staff lift, but often students without disability will try and blag their way into using it.

This is where I made my big mistake. I looked at the girl. She was not in a chair or using a stick, so I wrongfully assumed she wasn’t disabled. I asked her “are you disabled?” And she replied back “I am legally registered blind, and the fact you asked me that is bang out of order.” I mumbled an apology and she got out on the next floor. Her friend complained at the desk later on when I was there and I admitted my mistake and that I was sorry I ever made it. I also said if the girl wanted to hear it directly from me I would be willing to give her one.

So life really taught me a lesson today. I shouldn’t assume that people without visible signs are not disabled. I need to remember that I have more privileges than I am aware of and I need to fundamentally shift my perspective by bringing in the views of disabled activists to better understand how I can be better. For a while I have been reading the tweets of Sharon Dingle, a Christian author who is herself disabled and who has also adopted children who are disabled. Her tweets are funny, heartbreaking and informative, but I realise I need to pay more attention to her tweets about her experience with disability.

My life is full of mistakes. I stumble down this road, constantly tripping over my own wrongdoing and bad decisions. I know that when the Kingdom comes, I will be changed for the better permanently, but here and now, with Jesus’ help, I need to learn to be better, for the sake of myself and those who I meet along the way