Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Great Sin of Explanations and Verbal Self Defense

We all (or at least most of us, even non-Christians) know the instruction to turn the other cheek - if someone strikes you on your cheek, let them hit you on the other. We often think of this in physical terms - don't get into fights, don't cause pain. Even if we don't live up to this as an ideal, we know it.

But what if someone verbally strikes you - what if someone criticizes you unjustly (or even worse, justly!)? Well, then we open out mouths and out spew all sorts of things. Someone is upset with us, and rather than trying to sooth their anger, we first want to defend ourselves. We want to explain our actions (and why they aren't really that bad), we want to defend our actions - to show how silly the person who is upset with us. We parry their verbal attacks, and if we can turn that parry into a riposte, fantastic!

So often this falls into sin. So often any concern for the neighbor who is upset with us goes out the window as we become first and foremost concerned with showing ourselves to be in the right - you know, self-justifying ourselves. We want to say that we are better than the other person - we'll drag them down.

"Well, do you mean if we are falsely accused we can never defend ourselves?" Well, I'm not going to say that - but why are you so concerned about defending yourself? If someone is just upset, why do you need to defend yourself? I mean, if you are being falsely accused at work and might lose your job -- show your work, I guess. But even then, go, settle with your accuser - don't focus on trying to show how wonderful you are.

Just something to consider. Explanations can be fine, defense can be good - but what are you trying to accomplish? Is it simply for your own good or for the good of your neighbor? And if it isn't for the good of your neighbor, why are you doing it?

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