Shame and Grace Part 6 - The Misbehaving

Jul 10

Shame and Grace Part 6 - The Misbehaving

Tue, 07/10/2012 - 06:57 — Thabo Mokete

A persistent, unacceptable behaviour is like a headache that will not go away. It is there for a reason, and that reason is on the inside where healing is desperately needed.

Perhaps, like a messenger who brings unpleasant news, it is very tempting to want to stop the headache, so we can continue feeling all right. Alas, but we can't be good by changing our behaviour, rearranging things on the outside and moving circumstances around. That is the fraud of legalism. Appearing to have well-being when you don't actually have it.

There is moral behaviour that comes with the exercising of will power and the development of self control. There is great credit to those who are able to achieve this. But what about the weak ones? Is there no place in the kingdom for them? Quite the contrary, for the grace of God is standing by for the weak ones. To strengthen and develop them from the inside.

Even for the strong ones, their self developed moral strength is altogether not healthy, because one day this self-developed morality snaps at a crisis and reveals the broken things on the inside! If the goodness was genuine, there would be found in them the light of love for all men, instead of a critical eye and judging of the weak ones.

Truly the morally correct and the misbehaving ones stand on the same platform. They both live to serve only their own selves (ego). They are all in in need of God's amazing grace.

In the writings of the Gospels we see Jesus freely mingling with the outwardly misbehaving members of society. Yet, not even once did He utter one disparaging word to or about them. He showered them with the light of his presence, full of love and grace. When they saw him and interacted with him, there was a miracle of an awakening in them. They wanted what was in Him. They turned around and embraced the grace that flowed from Him.

If I spend my energy towards changing my behaviour, my heart will soon be broken. It is like taking pain tablets everyday to deal with that headache that won't go away. But the headache is only there to alert me of a problem area that needs my attention. As I take the pain killers daily, the actual problem causing the headache grows, but remains hidden from me. The situation  underneath mounts and erupts into an irreversible crisis. Then I must be hospitalized.

The truth then is that the headache was not the issue. It was only a messenger of grace bringing to  me awareness of my lack of well-being at that moment. Such was Adam's eating of the fruit and our wayward behaviours. They are like a pain that faithfully brings our attention to a situation on the inside. Then we can decide we need the help of a physician to help restore what is broken in us.

In the Bible, there is recorded powerful words in Psalm 51 of a person who became aware of the lack of well being in his heart. He had seen that through the evidence of his behaviour. He then expressed a heartfelt desire for restoration and renewal in that song.

Morality is therefore not the goal of the law within us as we have often thought it was. There can only be little profit in trying to modify our behaviour to conform with the law. Morality is a very low standard, compared to the shining goal of well-being. Moreover, working towards it is frustrating and heartbreaking, with disappointment and anxiety.

Very often one may want to change behaviour without addressing the root of those actions. But the heart is not fooled. It will simply generate other desires and doings that bring even more shame than the first.

I may out of guilt, throw away that bottle, or the pack of cigarettes, or that stack of magazines or that television. I may throw away that phone, disconnect my internet, or decide not to walk a particular street of town. I may even stop talking to all my 'bad' friends. These behaviour modifications, even though desperately desired, cannot be effectively achieved by egotistical means. They cannot be done as a means to an end, which is to remove the sense of guilt that the actions brought.

There still remains a river to be crossed, and there is only one bridge. That bridge is called guilt. One can postpone having to cross for a long time and camp by the side of the bridge. Eventually one has to cross. In religious terms, the crossing of that bridge is called repentance or turning around.

Turning around is not necessarily the stopping of a particular act of misbehaving, but involves opening up to the shame of the situation on the inside. Then there is someone on the inside who is always standing by to walk on that bridge with you.

When you cross the bridge on the inside, you will know what to change and it will happen. You will not be changing to prove a point, but because you will not be needing that behaviour anymore. The root will be all right.