This is part two of a three part trilogy on "trash talk." Part one discussed some of the ways to allow pain to expose unhealthy patterns of thinking and tolerating garbage in our mental and emotional life. In this article I show how these patterns create diseases that destroy our quality of life and the next article will show how to protect and overcome the destruction.
We looked at the example of King David in the Old Testament. The Bible describes how this godly man allowed trash thoughts and actions to wreck his life and the lives of those around him. His unchecked desires led to inappropriate entertainment, which led to womanizing, which led to adultery, which led to murder and a cover-up, which all shortened his kingship and damaged his legacy. This raises a question, "How could David, chosen by God himself to be king, experience such a hard crash?" How could a person identified as "a man after God's heart" (1 Samuel 13:14), become vulnerable to such evil actions? Merely asking this question hopefully sobers us to some degree into considering our own vulnerability.
The Bible offers some valuable insight into the susceptibility of the heart of mankind. Jesus himself taught extensively about inner person health, and shared many stories to reveal his listeners' true heart condition. In the first book of the New Testament, the gospel of Matthew 5:21-22 says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." Jesus is making a very strong connection between holding anger towards a person and the wicked act of killing. The feelings of anger are not sinful, but allowing anger to turn into bitterness, hatred, and resentment leads to cancer and evil. The word 'Raca' in this text is similar to the word 'jerk.' When we turn our attention from judging a person's actions, to critically judging his/her intentions or motives, we are considering them a jerk, and thus unworthy of their Creator's personhood.
For example, let's say your boss turns you down for a job promotion. You may disagree with him/her about your past performance, potential duties, or other specific details of projects. Your assessment (judgment) may be that the boss isn't understanding, fair, or best for the organization. Instead of engaging the conflict to work through the differences, you decide to hold your opinions to yourself. When your "judging" crosses the line to thinking of your boss as a "jerk," you begin to kill the relationship. Your dislike of actions turns to embittered heart toward the person. It may happen at once or on a slippery slope. Perhaps your disappointment causes you to have a keener ear for other people's disagreements with the boss, and you participate in bad-mouthing and rumors (slander and gossip). Your performance may slip because your attitude towards your work stinks. Your boss is forced to confront you for a performance issue, and you react with complaining more about him/her, blaming someone else's faults, or justifying your own bad behavior. Now your bitterness and hatred is turning to full blown rage and it's harder to control your emotions. You "snap" at other people in your life (co-workers, roommate, spouse, kids) and maybe for comfort you turn to an old bad habit (addiction) you kicked a while ago. If you're still blaming your boss for all this trouble in your life, your rage and resentment could turn to retaliation, and before you realize it, you're thinking about harming your boss (or someone else). If these "trash" thoughts and feelings are not interrupted, they could develop into an act of revenge. That's how trash leads to crash.
Again, feelings of anger are not automatically a bad thing. Anger (as with many emotions) is a messenger. Anger is trying to tell you something about a deeper problem of unresolved stress, unmet legitimate needs, or residual shame and guilt.
Anger is often a "trash detector" emotion. Failing to pay attention to the message and original source of the anger can entrap the heart and mind in a prison of harmful thoughts and emotions.
The last week of February 2015, brought a very sad and cold reality to Lancaster County. Similar scenarios to the above played out in real life in our community. In two separate incidents, a community leader committed murder. One is a former pastor of a congregation who looked to him for shepherding. The other was an assistant principal in a high school with youth looking up to him for guidance. It is difficult to comprehend how something this horrible can happen. The families are let to deal with the trauma of the events, but the community is also traumatized.
We must remember that these events are "abnormal." We must guard against these particular leaders' failures from casting an overall critical judgment upon all authority figures. "Who can we trust?" is a very valid question, for example, but assuming that all leaders are untrustworthy because of the actions of a few, will not serve our community well. Failure to trust good, solid, trustworthy leaders opens the door even wider for predator-type "leaders" to make their move. Trustworthy leaders are worthy of the trust of their followers, and the vast majority of community leaders have paid a price to be in the position they occupy--positions earned by trust.
Though these tragedies are a very small part of the "big picture," it is worth looking at how they occur to try to keep them from happening. I mention them to show that just as in the time of King David in the Old Testament, leaders today are also at great risk for moral and personal failures. When leaders crash, the fallout can be devastating to a community. Understanding the magnitude of the problem can help the grieving process back to normalcy. Leaders are judged by their outward performance, but on the inside, their inner person is made of the same stuff as all mankind.
We try to conceal pain. We don't try to be a bad person. But concealing pain (not dealing with the trash) will lead people to do bad things. So, in order to intentionally be a good person, we must intentionally deal with conflict and pain. There is much wisdom in the Proverbs and other parts of the Bible about finding answers on how to do this. In chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew quoted above, Jesus taught how to avoid murder by acknowledging anger and turning away from calling people jerks. In the verses following, Jesus shows adultery (going to bed with a person not your spouse) occurs in your heart (with no physical act involved). He says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). Looking is not automatically lust, but allowing sexual desire to take your thoughts and feelings to a place only meant for your marriage partner is adultery. "Moral failures," or "affairs" (euphemisms for adultery) do not occur only with the physical act of sex, but with the first expression of the wayward heart (ie. flirting, emotionally connecting, meeting alone, fixation). Similar to justifying anger, entertaining lust is like trash that will lead to crash.
The scenarios above may play out in many variations. Instead of a boss, it could be any authority figure including a family member or church leader. In the Church, the incorrect notion that, "Christians are not supposed to feel anger" can hinder the trash collection process. Over spiritualizing or blaming too much on the devil can also be a common way to evade taking responsibility for inner person health.
In sum, the health of our heart determines the health of our entire being. Keeping the heart as free from trash (encumbrances, unresolved stress, and cancerous thought and feelings) as possible will assure the highest quality of life. May I encourage you each day to take a few moments and briefly examine your heart condition before God.
Note: The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness. This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith) to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: http://bluerockbnb.com/healing/book_main.htm . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at http://bluerockbnb.com
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry