Introspective judgment plays a critical role in maintaining one’s spiritual life.
Readership: Christians; Those who are self-aware;
In some recent discussion in the comments at Σ Frame, there has been some disagreement about the value of posting one’s less-than-stellar experiences on the internet as a real-world case study for the sake of analysis and discussion. Some say it is an honest testimony, while others say it is glorifying sin.
Here are two specific issues that have received criticism.
- Scott’s testimony in Opportunities (2020-2-26).
- Sharkly’s testimony in Virgin Imprinting (2020-3-1).
In the past, I’ve written extensively about confession (of sin) and profession (of faith), the subtle difference between the two, and the power that it has to transform our subjective experience of life. In these posts, I’ve gone into some detail about the nature of the heart-speech connection and the impact of a confession. The reader who is unfamiliar with these topics may wish to read the following essays before reading on.
- Σ Frame: Confession vs. Profession (2009 October 2)
- Σ Frame: Confidence and Authenticity in Speech (2009 December 28)
- Σ Frame: The Trouble with Resolutions, Inner Vows and Commitments (2010 January 14)
In spite of all that I’ve written about it, this topic never seems to get old, because every day brings a fresh experience of self-discovery and spiritual renewal.
I imagine that all the abstract theories and mystical impressionism have completely snowed many of my readers. If the reader feels this way, the concepts described in the above posts might become clearer by considering a few real world case studies in a previous post, Confessions of Racist White Nationalists (2020-January-31), all of which are based on my own life experiences.
Throughout our lives, we play different roles that bring out different aspects of our personality.
For example, when you’re a kid, then you play the role of a boy. Then when you’re a teenager, you play the cool kid, stalking the trends, listening to the “in” music, and you’re in a social mess being popular (or unpopular) with girls. When we get older then you might have a career, or a small business, and you’re focused on a reputable customer service and building rapport with business accomplices. When you get married, you have the role of being a husband. When you have children, then you play the role of being a father.
So you see, there are different personal roles that we play in our life, and each one requires us to tune in to a different hertz as time goes on.
Another thing is that as we age, we have a different perspective on life.
If you confess to stealing candy when you’re 5, then you’re facing the wrath of an adult parent (which is really a big deal at that age). But doing the same thing at 50 is not fearsome, but despicable (or pitiable). If you confess to getting your girlfriend pregnant when you’re 20, then that is a life changer. But doing the same thing at 60 might be felt as a terrific accomplishment.
What I’ve just described seems simple enough, and maybe you’ve heard it all before. But in truth, it’s a long challenge and it never ends. I mean, I’ve been a Christian since I was a kid, but I’m 48 now, and I’m still discovering things I didn’t know about myself. It seems incredulous doesn’t it? But I think I’m not alone in this. I think everyone who takes introspection seriously goes through this same process, if they’re being honest and seeking God, because our life changes as we get older and we experience different things.
So my point is, all of these roles bring out different expressions of our self, and each stage of our life presents new, different lessons to learn. Overall, you always have this sense that, “maybe I’m not there yet”. But that’s a deceptive impression, because if you ever get the idea that you have “arrived”, then that’s the point where you lose touch with reality. The trick is to live like you have “arrived” in the present moment, but at the same time, be thinking of the next step, as if you’re “not there yet”. Got it?
Taking control of our lives through confession
Lies and curses enter into our lives in the simplest ways – so simple in fact, that they go under the radar, undetected. We fail to notice, and thereby fail to address the spiritual damage.
In his post, Antidote to Fear 05 (2018 October 26), Ed Hurst describes one example of how easily a person can sustain a curse, and how simple it can be.
”…let me cite a common everyday example of how stuff like this takes root in our lives. If someone denounces another using that nasty f-word, it’s the same as uttering a curse. If that denunciation is valid, if it’s consistent with Scripture, that’s fine. If it’s invalid, such as arising from senseless hatred, then it becomes a curse on the speaker. Don’t confuse this with crude joking. People who unjustly hurl “f**k you” at you are surely cursing themselves, so learn how your heart can reject the power of that curse over you. If there is any justification for it, your confession and repentance removes that curse.”
Continuing with Ed’s post, he addresses how to achieve an effective confession.
“I’m not going to put words in your mouth. Use whatever ceremonial language fits your sense of calling and mission. If you lack imagination, echo the language of your favorite Bible translation, using phrases that seem to apply. The Psalms are loaded with appropriate stuff. But don’t be fake, as if the words really matter. The one thing we want to do is break the power of mere words to rule over you.”
One technique I have found useful is to use prayers in scripture, and replace the appropriate pronouns with my name. Take for example, Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV).
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of His glory He may grant Jack to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in Jack’s inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in Jack’s heart through faith — that Jack, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that Jack may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that Jack asks or thinks, according to the power at work within Jack, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
A more advanced approach would require one to compose a prayer containing truthful words that are proper and fitting to one’s state, much like one would write a poem or an essay, and to then struggle through the process of reciting this prayer fluently and without mistake. Don’t be quick to scoff at the simplicity of this. It is much more difficult than you might imagine.
Try it sometime. You’ll be surprised!
The proper Frame for introspective judgment
After recollecting a few experiences in my life in which others judged me, I asked myself if people judged me because of the way I judged them, or if they judged me according to the way I judged myself. I think there’s examples of both, but the way I judge myself is a little more dominant, in that it largely determines how others judge me too.
For example, if I subconsciously believe I’m a bad guy, then I carry a sense of guilt about what I do, and my ego is affected negatively. So then people can feel that I have a dysfunctional ego, and they may be attuned to think I’m a bad guy too. But if I can bring that subconscious belief to my conscious awareness, through introspection, and then talk about it, then this confession transforms my negative self-image into a new found sense of humility and confidence.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1st John 1:9 (ESV)
Now, there are some things that are totally unacceptable to other people. So for those things you really need to talk it over with God first before you can tell others. As time passes, the challenge is to be more open. We begin by being honest with our self, and that can be a big challenge for some people. And then the next thing is to be honest with God about our self. In the process of being honest with God and understanding yourself better, then you apprehend the words to describe that. This process can be time-consuming and challenging to see clearly. The challenge here is to be able to put that into words and use those words to tell other people. I think that’s part of how we can be honest with God towards other people. Then after that, the next step would be to have the courage to talk about our problems with other people. And we need to be very careful to choose people that we trust, people who are not going to condemn us in an unjust way, but who would offer us love and grace, because that would help us find healing from those problems. And then the next step would be to find the confidence to talk about our problems and to find ways to describe it as a character-building experience, rather than something that has destroyed you.
Interestingly, the act of judging yourself doesn’t always have the social impact that you might expect. The funny thing about an inadvertent confession is that if I am able to tell people some of my transgressions, then people think that’s interesting, and maybe even somewhat funny, and they gain a deeper understanding of me as a person. Somehow, this understanding imparts empathy, and they suddenly realize I’m not such a bad guy.
This phenomenon is one of the magic things about God’s Grace. If you can put your common faults and errors into words, and talk about it with other people, then somehow, one can usually apprehend the confidence to address those issues. Even in the case where the wrongdoing may not be socially acceptable to others, nevertheless, one can find Grace to grow through that situation.
It’s difficult, costly and time consuming to build up, but cheap and easy to tear down. From a spiritual perspective, it is better to be one who builds and contributes, rather than one who steals and destroys.
It is important to talk through the complicated issues of our deepest desires, our inmost fears and frustrations, and get those things into words that are understandable, correct, and fitting. It’s important because this is how we come to terms with ourselves and accept God’s grace, find healing, and forgiveness. This should not be mistaken for “glorifying sin”.
It takes courage and faith to make a confession. It’s not proper to tell someone to shut up about their past errors, and keep their nose to the grindstone, if they have not yet achieved an effective confession. If God has put it on their heart to pass along their story to edify others, then it becomes more important for them to practice their testimony until their confession of sin can be transformed into a profession of faith.
- Do What’s Right (feat. Ed Hurst): Teachings of Jesus – Luke 16:19-31 (January 26, 2019)