Nov. 26, 2013 Civility in Xian Scripture

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st francisNovember 26: Civility helps us transcend conceit.

Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Are you one of those folks who must make everything a competition? Is everything a contest for you with a first place, second place and third place, winners and losers? You might want to say no, but think about it. When someone shares something amazing in their life, is your first thought one of comparison to your own life?

I like to think I’m not all that wrapped up competitive ways, but I know that there are certainly areas of my life where I do harbor envy. There are parts of my life where I like to think I’m better than others. Better than most? Maybe. I have to admit it’s there within me, and it threatens my civility. I’ve never been an athlete, so I’m not all that into competitive sports, but I’ve found ways too make most everything else in life into a sport with winners and losers. In those other areas of life it’s the “I’m an expert” syndrome.

My image with this blog is a painting I did a few years ago of St. Francis of Assisi. I painted it intentionally as a picture of St. Francis and a little bit of a self portrait. His eyes are downcast and closed, not because he failed at anything, but because I know I fail so often to live up to the prayer he prayed, “Make me an instrument of your peace.” I’m too often a bit too self-serving to be used on anyone else’s behalf. His prayer makes me feel ashamed. The painting expresses a great paradox of my life: I want to live that prayer, but my conceit keeps me fettered to vanity and pride.

You might think a guy who likes to talk so much about humility wouldn’t be thinking how much better he is at something than you are, but then again that’s why I’m happy you’re not in my head. I hope you don’t mind a little more honesty, today. It’s simple human conceit, and I have it.

Conceittoo much pride in your own worth or goodness

I like to think I keep it well hidden, but I know it shows sometimes. When it does show, well that’s when I’m saying things that make you frustrated. It often shows itself in provocation, sometimes when I’m challenging your ideas and your accomplishments. I do it because I don’t want you as happy with yourself as you are. I do it because I want your success moderated a bit, lowered a bit closer to the level of my own (or just a bit under mine own). It’s not pretty, but it does happen.

A commitment to civility will help impose certain filters on me that not only help me not do this to you unnecessarily in our conversations, but also I hope it will shine a light on the inner conceits that trip me up. St. Paul is expressing this whole idea in the context of a discussion on personal freedom, a choice to serve others or myself. Your accomplishments can become part of my joy. Your wins can become my celebrations. Your joy is not then at my expense, but instead it is my gain. Honestly, I’m trying to love you that much.

AMDG, Todd

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