The Power of a Clean Conscience
I am writing this as a self-professed worrier. For much of my life, everyone’s problems were, in some way or form, my problem. If someone was offended, it was because I did something wrong. If someone was hurt, it was because I hurt them. Almost as if I was the genesis point of everyone else’s problems.
The underlying issue here is a basic assumption: everyone else’s lives would be just peachy if I wasn’t here. There’s a multitude of different ways to say the same thing — People wouldn’t miss me if; people would be happier if; I can’t do anything right; etc. There’s also a multitude of problems with this basic assumption.
Number 1 (and perhaps most obviously) there is an overly large opinion of our own impact on the world. It is fundamentally impossible for a single human being to be so psychologically noxious that they are responsible for triggering all the interpersonal issues of every single individual on the planet. Is it possible for one person to transform most of their peers into complete headcases? In limited respect, but that is another issue. The point is that the lives and experiences of other people begin long before we meet them and continue long after. Thus, at least “some” of their personal quirks “have to” have started long before we met them.
The second big problem with this assumption is that there is an extremely poor view of the self. Essentially, wrapped up in the above assumption is acceptance of the idea that “I” am such a terrible, horrible person that (1) it is impossible for someone to look past my flaws and (2) all they will find is more faults even if they did. The Bible does state that “in me, no good thing dwells”, but it alos pairs (in the “meta” sense) that statement with the idea that I am made in God’s image and he loves me.
The last of the large-scale problems of this basic assumption is that it takes responsibility for someone else’s condition while simultaneously discarding that person from the equation. People’s issues do not happen apart from those people. While that sounds obvious, consider that someone who is owning the world’s problems is bearing with them at all times the rejection/offense/anger of the world around them even before interacting with anyone in that world. What we don’t realize is that, in doing so, we actually cheapen the circumstances that have made people rejected, offended and angry.
Now, there is a very serious liberation that needs to happen for those who crush themselves continuously under the weight of the issues of their peers. As I have said once or twice in previous posts, if we speak the truth and someone is offended, it isn’t the truth’s fault. While the Bible does say that we are, as much as possible, to live at peace with all men, it also says that if we are insulted we shoud not retaliate and should even pray for that person. However, there is a key phrase in the last two sentences that we need to pay attention to… speaking the truth.
There is much to be said about building bridges and living peaceably with all men. There is much to be said about sensitivity to an audience. Nowhere in the Bible are we directed to violate the spirit of truth for the sake of “peace” or clemency. Intriguingly enough, “peace” also doesn’t denote a “lack of conflict”, but that is a much larger subject. So what about those that have endeavored not to violate God’s absolute moral code?
There is an unflappable confidence that comes with knowing that you are in right standing with God. That rock-sure feeling that no one can condemn you but God. This is what real liberation feels like. People can complain, accuse, cajole, appeal, harbor offense, reject, ostracize and any other of a list of verbs… but for one that is confident in God’s righteousness, it simply washes off with the next shower. I can’t really explain it, but I’ve never felt better in my life than when I have withstood accusation and come through it on the other side with my integrity intact.
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine what it was like before without feeling slightly silly about it. Why did I put myself through that? Why did I put up with other people’s projections and internalize them instead of of simply letting them deal with Jesus? There isn’t really a good reason for doing it, but this is one thing I do know…… by the grace of God, I’m never going back. The good news is that I don’t have to.