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Posts Tagged ‘Arrogance’


Refer to Step 2: I refuse to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

It is often better to have a great deal of harm happen to one than a little; a great deal may rouse you to remove, what a little will only accustom you to endure.

—Fulke Greville

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone make a statement like this. “I know where the Lord is leading. He told me what He’s doing; it’s crystal clear to me.” When something like this is said, it’s usually delivered in a smug, self-satisfied fashion, daring the listener to challenge its verity. Whenever someone says, “God told me,” it usually means that the speaker has make a decision that he or she has elevated to a Divine mandate.

My experience as a believer has been quite different. When I was a young, I was convinced I knew what God wanted for my life, too. In my pomposity, I thought I was destined to be important, wise, noble, and spared many of life’s heartaches. My viewpoint, which was common among my peers, was obviously arrogant. It narrowly focused on my self-importance, self-fulfillment, and little else.

I was interested in self-achievement, while giving lip service to serving others. I believed God’s purpose for me was a heightened sense of personal fulfillment. Like many, I insisted upon making my grandiose dreams God’s will for my life. None of my aspirations materialized, of course, for one simple reason. They were based upon my will and not God’s. He had something far different in mind for me.

Experiencing profound failure on several fronts, including marriage, I became shattered and disillusioned. Instead of fame and glory, I experienced crushing heartache for years and wondered why my loving Heavenly Father had allowed so many disasters to occur. I felt abandoned by God and suffered prolonged periods of low self-esteem.

I wasn’t abandoned, of course, but that’s how I felt. I never really learned the lessons my failures were supposed to teach me. It required years for me to realize what God was after. During the time I was being pruned, God wasn’t teaching me things as much as He was “un-teaching” me things. I had to unlearn my grandiose view of myself and become simple, which couldn’t happen until I was broken. Once that happened, it became much easier. When I was willing to accept my diminished importance with humility, I was finally able to enjoy being the person I was created to be. It was at that point that my usefulness to God began—never before.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

My Story

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Father,

Unlike most, my life is in sync.

A man of substance and value,

People listen when I speak,

As words of wisdom roll mellifluously

From the essence of my being.

Indeed, I have it all together.

At least, I thought I did.

Then, You came and shook me,

Knowing my vulnerabilities like no other.

In an instant—in a flash—I was undone.

I was not where I thought I was.

I was not the person I claimed to be.

When you revealed me to myself,

I stood naked—laid bare before Your eyes.

I cannot hide from Your face,

From Your truth, or from Your scrutiny.

Those who claim their love have abandoned me,

And my enemies delight at my misfortune.

Worst of all, Your blessings have vanished.

When will it end? When will it be enough?

When will You remove Your heavy hand of discipline

Restoring my strength, my peace, and my prosperity?

Is my discipline for a season, Lord?

Or, is it for a lifetime? You know, and I do not.

Be merciful to me, Father, for I am undone.

Do not allow this be my lot in life from now on.

I’ve learned my lesson and do not need to repeat it.

I regret my arrogance and self-righteousness.

Hasten the day of my restoration, Lord,

Lest my sorrows overwhelm me

And my despair become irreparable.

Jack Watts

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Father,

In my pain and anguish,

When my heart was broken,

And I thought darkness would overwhelm me,

I felt lost and all alone, but I wasn’t.

Despite how I felt, You were there with me,

Diligently working in my heart—

Stripping me of all of my pretense,

Stripping me of all of my arrogance,

Stripping me of all of my self-serving ways—

Each of which had made a wasteland of my life.

Although Your child, I had no concern or awareness

Of the direction You intended for me to follow.

My only concern was relief from my discomfort,

But Your goals were far greater than mine.

I thought my anguish would never end

And that I would never smile at the future,

But I was wrong about that, as well.

I knew the desires of my heart

And asked You repeatedly to grant them,

But You never would, which saddened me at the time.

What I have gained through my loss, however,

Has had more value than I could have imagined.

Out of the abyss, You have raised me up.

You have placed my feet on solid, immovable rock.

You have strengthened me with power

In the inner man—at the center of my being.

No longer fearful or timid, I’m resolute and confident.

Instead of apprehension, I am calm, strong, and sane.

And it’s all because You have changed my heart—

Transforming my perspective about what has value.

Without Your loving, consistent care,

I would never have learned my lessons

And would have been destined to repeat my mistakes

Over and over again, like an unreasoning animal—

Not like a man—not like a child of the King.

To compensate for what I have completely wasted,

You reached into the pit—into the mire

Into emotional carnage of my life—

Redeeming my future, providing me with a future and a hope.

Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou are my God; Let Thy good Spirit lead me on level ground. For the sake of Thy name, O Lord, revive me. In Thy righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. (Psalm 143:10-11)

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Father,

I’m praying because I know I should,

Not because I really want to.

I can do things for myself.

I always have—always will.

I don’t need Your help—not really.

“Bring it on,” is my motto.

In my heart, this is how I feel—

At least, most of the time.

I’m not trying to hurt anybody,

But I don’t really trust anyone either—

Not even You, Lord, not even You.

As I grit my teeth obstinately,

In my arrogance I think, I can handle anything.

Then, You allow adversity to have reign over me.

Fighting You every step of the way,

I refuse to learn the lesson I am being taught.

My proud, headstrong attitude defines who I am.

At least, it is the way I have become.

Undaunted by my inflexibility,

You increase the pressure upon me,

And I wince at the discomfort,

But I will not yield—not yet.

I still have so much fight left in me.

I cannot submit; I will not submit.

Then, You double the pressure, redoubling it once more.

Finally, when I can stand no more,

I break—just a little and, in my bewildered distress,

I cry out imploringly, “Lord? What have I done?”

As if completely innocent, I ask, “Why is this happening?”

Revealing Your purpose, You allow me to recognize

Just how much my world required shaking.

Finally, coming to the end of my inflexibility,

I acknowledge what I should have earlier,

“Your will is my will, Lord. Do with me as You please.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, or angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor thins to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

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Step 4: I chose to accept as true what God says about Himself. He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

Believing in his own infallibility, the leader becomes accountable to God only, which means it’s all right to treat others any way he chooses. That’s where the problem comes. Lesser human beings become expendable. Using their position of superiority, they “strut their stuff” arrogantly, expecting their followers to be obsequious when they do. They believe their exalted position gives them the right to do so, and they expect others to recognize it, accept it, and pay homage to them. This misuse of power and authority is the single greatest source of religious abuse. Nothing compares to it.

Being a spiritual leader, however, does not equate to being spiritually superior—quite the contrary. In recovery, because we have felt the sting of religious superiority so acutely, we know how abusive it can be. That’s why so many react negatively to it, blaming God for the abusiveness of those who claim to speak for Him.

The key is to recognize the difference. God is good and can be trusted. An abusive spiritual leader is just a man who arrogates God’s authority to himself inappropriately—nothing more, nothing less.

Recognizing the error is appropriate, but blaming God for it isn’t. He is never abusive. When you begin to understand the difference, you will have made a significant step in your recovery.

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Example One

Boston: I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, the second of four children in an Irish-Catholic family. Being a good Catholic, I went to Mass every Sunday and each Holy Day of Obligation, which meant I was in church at least sixty times a year. Some of my earliest memories were while I was at church. Part of my education was in a Catholic school, which was challenging academically and good for me. Dealing with the nuns and priests, who were positioned as intermediaries between God and me, however, was difficult and not at all beneficial.

How they dealt with me has had an impact upon how I perceive God, which has influenced my entire life. I’m not alone; there are millions of Catholic kids like me who have their own stories to tell—many of which are much worse than mine.

One incident in particular had a profound impact on me. It was the day of my First Holy Communion, when I was just seven years old. For months, all the girls and boys from my Communion class practiced going to the alter rail, kneeling down, holding our heads back, opening our mouths, and sticking out our tongues. When we did, the priest would put the Communion wafer on our tongues, say something—which I couldn’t understand, and move on to the next kid.

It sounds simple enough, but its execution on that fateful day was anything but simple. We were told—harshly, repeatedly and in no-uncertain terms—that we were to close our mouths immediately when the Host was placed on our tongues.

The priest said, “You don’t want to drop Jesus on the floor, do you?” He went on to tell us that this was a sacrilege—a mortal sin, and it would send us to hell. This, of course, terrified me as a seven-year-old. I can still feel the cold chill of fear from his words more than half a century later. His harsh admonition wasn’t accurate Catholic teaching, but I didn’t know it at the time.

Although I was little, I remember trying to look at the wafer as the priest held it up. I wanted to see Jesus’ face in it, but I never could. It didn’t look like Him, and it didn’t look like any part of a human being I had ever seen before either. Nevertheless, it was His body, and I was scared to death of dropping Jesus on the floor.

When the eventful day arrived, each girl was dressed in white, and all the boys, including me, wore white suits, white clip-on ties, and white gloves. Everything we wore that day was white, signifying purity—girls and boys. There were at least one hundreds kids taking their First Holy Communion that day, which seemed to excite the parents much more than any of us.

We sat up front away from our families—the boys on the right side of the aisle—the girls on the left. Sitting immediately to my right was Jerry Callahan, who was a little goofy on his best day and slightly retarded on his worst. Because he was on my right—sitting right next to me—he was in line to receive Communion immediately before me.

On schedule, we were ushered to the rail by a nun. Each of us knelt precisely as we were instructed. When the priest came to Jerry, he didn’t open his mouth as wide as he was supposed to. This irritated the priest, who spoke very sternly to him. Scared, Jerry started to whimper. Exasperated, the priest put the Host on Jerry’s partially protruding tongue, hoping that all would go well.

Then, the unthinkable happened; Jerry let the wafer drop from his mouth. Jesus landed on the floor right before my eyes. Aghast, the priest hurriedly grabbed the wafer, scraped up all the crumbs beside it, and put it in his own mouth, which really surprised me. After that, he rose quickly, gave Jerry a look of pure hate and slapped him right across the face. It was a hard slap, and Jerry screamed from shock and pain.

As this drama was unfolding, Jerry’s mother rushed forward to retrieve her child, who was now hysterical—screaming at the top of his lungs. As she arrived, she looked up at the priest, and said, “I’m so sorry, Father.” With that, she clutched her son, put a protective shoulder around him, and led him out of the church. I can still remember his receding sobs, as every adult looked at Jerry with contemptuous smirks.

The priest then turned his focus on me with defiant eyes, daring me to make a mistake. I was close to wetting my pants with fear, but I didn’t. I did exactly as I was supposed to do. Because I was so afraid, however, my mouth was bone dry, and Jesus stuck to the roof of my oral cavity and wouldn’t dissolve. It might as well have been peanut butter. Kids weren’t allowed to talk with Jesus in our mouth, and we couldn’t chew Him either. It was a sin. It took at least thirty minutes for Jesus to dissolve, and the Mass was long over before I could open my lips and say a word.

The next year, Jerry died of a brain aneurysm. Because he was so traumatized by the priest’s actions that day, he was never allowed to make his First Holy Communion. This meant he couldn’t go to Heaven, which saddened me. It’s also why I have such a vivid memory of the incident so long after it occurred.

This episode solidified my fear of God or, more accurately, my terror of Him. I saw God as cold, hateful, impersonal, petty, and mean-spirited. He was punitive—just like the priest who gave me communion that day. This twisted my perspective about God for years, but the abusive part was the corporal punishment inflicted on Jerry by the priest.

Everybody believed the priest had a right to do this, and nobody protested—not even Jerry’s mother. Catholics were terrified of their priests—men who wielded unquestioned authority over the people in their Parrish.

This was not an isolated instance. It was routine in Roman Catholicism before Vatican II. If you think I’m wrong, just ask any Catholic who was raised during this era. Nearly every one of us has a story to tell about an abusive priest or nun.

As I grew older and saw the world through adult eyes, I left the Church, and my memories of it are not pleasant. The mindset of the Catholic clergy—at least the one’s I knew—was that it was their right to slap kids around, and they did it routinely. Their power over the people was so strong and unassailable that moms and dads never protested how their children were being treated. This resulted in abuse that affected millions of kids like me—abuse that still impacts our lives. Just writing about it still angers me. I wonder if I’ll ever get over it.

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Have you ever asked yourself why there are so many church people who are abusive? According to the Zogby poll, there are as many as 30 million people who have left the churches of their youth—many because of one form of abuse or another. Others see the church as irrelevant—as an unsafe place for them emotionally. Many wonder, “How can there be so much abuse in Christianity?”

I believe I have the answer—at least in part. It’s because numerous church leaders stop walking in the light. They think they are, but they’re not. They believe they do, but they don’t. Having once had a transforming experience, they enshrine it. It provides them with a sense of superiority. They also exalt their education and and their experience to validate actions which are insensitive and abrasive. Because of their “profound experience,” anything they do is OK in their eyes. After all, they’ve “been chosen” to lead.

They forget their walk is moment-by-moment, with the Lord providing illumination for the next step forward and nothing else. They forget they need grace and mercy just like everyone else. Because they believe they are superior, they treat others as less important. To those chosen to lead, being a follower is a lesser calling.

They lose their compassion, and when someone gets in their way, they have no problem crushing that person’s spirit. In fact, they believe it’s their right and duty to do so—self-absorbed as they are. Because they’ve institutionalized their experience, it becomes metallic and puffed up rather than alive and vibrant. Sadly, they flaunt their authority, while assurring people they are humble servants of God.

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