Monday, December 21, 2009

People, Vices, Trust and Honesty

I tend to like outward sinners. I trust them more. You know the kind with vices, the public sins. I have a lot of grace for people who cuss, drink, smoke or do drugs. Usually deep down they're very beautiful, loving and loyal people. They struggle openly, altering their mind or taking part to either know or be known, and I can respect that symptom however mistreated. The people I don't trust are those who don't seem to have anything wrong with them. If I can't find any fault in your character when I spend time with you, any tinge of humanity to which I can relate, I'll automatically assume that you're hiding something. You must be acting, lying, and I don't trust you. To be human is to struggle, and I have to see your humanity before we can have any mutual respect. 

Whenever I meet someone who doesn't have any apparent vices or character struggles I immediately think, "What are you hiding?" Something dark and twisted a life altering? Something that might go unnoticed now but in twenty years will devastate your life and everyone around you? If someone drinks too much it is pretty apparent what their issue is, and friends can easily diagnose and come around them to address it with love. What if someone has too much pride? Struggles with secret infidelity? Is consumed with greed and selfishness? These things aren't extremely visible, and can be hidden for long periods of time. They also can have temporarily profitable consequences. Consequences which can contribute to the desire to feed these secret sins.

The greediest most selfish investment banker might just get the most promotions as well, because he works on a commission, his profiteering allows for others to profit, so he is rewarded. His hunger for money will never be satisfied, and he might even chase it at the expense of his character because he believes that life rewards greed. When greed goes unchecked people suffer, like when the housing bubble popped. If we could have seen it coming we could have avoided a lot of suffering, but greed is hidden. Greed can be disguised as a positive thing.

How about the guy who cheats on his wife once, and subsequently realizes it's fun. It's dangerous and exciting, and while there is an initial pang of guilt he chooses to keep quiet and gets away with it. In the back of his mind, it's always an option because there are no immediate consequences. He eventually does it again, and again, until there is no more pang of guilt. He's having his cake and eating it too, but he's chasing this excitement and danger so carelessly that he slips up. He gets caught, but now the damage is done and his marriage is beyond repair. His lust came at the expense of his character, his family, and his way of life. Nobody saw it. Nobody could warn him. Nobody could read his thoughts and say to him, "Don't embellish that thought, that is dangerous, that will ruin your life."

We can privately rebuke our loved ones who struggle with the outward worship of idols; the habits we can all see and agree are dangerous when left unchecked. We can intervene in the lives of those who struggle with substance abuse. We can say to someone, "You've offended me by saying this." It's socially acceptable. But you can't really have an intervention for hidden pride, greed, lust or selfishness. There aren't many treatment programs for these extremely dangerous patterns of thought. This is why I prefer those people who struggle with the outward vices, or who at least are vocal about their inward ones. They're easier to diagnose and treat. They're often more honest about their shortcomings, and honesty is the key to any real behavioral change. Plus I relate to them.

I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve along with my struggles, and it's made me the recipient of criticism more than once. I think because I crave grace for my own shortcomings I am more likely to give grace to those who walk in my shoes. This isn't always true of everything, sometimes the most annoying people to you are the people struggling with things you haven't truly confronted in your own life. It's the whole, "First deal with the plank in your own eye so you will be able to see to the speck in your brothers eye" thing. We all want to fix everyone else before we fix ourselves. The person who annoys you most might be like you, or maybe how you think you "used to be." But thats just because you've picked an extreme, you've chosen to be against something outwardly in order to not really deal with it inwardly. It would take a post full of psychobabble to explain that this extreme stance really stems from self-loathing, but it's not something I'm an expert on so I'll spare you my elementary understanding of it all. The point is extremism is easy, its the whole honest-self-examination thing that requires some dedication.

I think those who have vices as opposed to deep and secret moral sins are in some ways able to escape the worst symptom at all: Denial. If you drink until you're drunk every night, and everyone is witness to this, then you really have no real way of denying the fact that you are an alcoholic. You are not as easily afforded denial as someone whose sins are more private. Denial is easy if nobody knows. If nobody brings it up. 

Before I say anymore, let me say this: No I am not saying go do drugs and cuss and act like a total fool. If you derived that from the aforementioned lines, you might want to run a "fool-check" on yourself before proceeding. I am merely saying this: Everyone sins, and I prefer you keep your sins where I can see 'em. If you struggle with pride, greed, gossip, vanity, jealousy and lust (LIKE WE ALL DO) then be honest about it. Speak your mind, even if it bothers you, and then speak about how it bothers you. If you act perfect all the time, there are people like me are going to walk away going, "There's something wrong with that guy, and I can't really put my finger on it." You're just not going to connect on a deep level with anyone. You will garner only spite for your weirdness. If you develop a habit of this polished dishonesty, you'll probably ruin your life like Tiger Woods did.

There's something about honesty. I'll be honest and admit that I have little grace for those who are not being honest with themselves. It is wrong of me, but there is something about those people that really gets me. Those folks who do everything wrong, who make terrible decisions that ruin their lives and the lives of others, and then act like they aren't to blame. Like they're a "good person." In my opinion, the only thing that makes a person "good" is honesty. We all screw up, but when we hold on to denial we shift the blame: It's not my problem, someone else did this to me, made me this way. I am a product of my environment, my upbringing. Screw that, you're a product of thousands of choices you made and continue to make on a daily basis. The only person to blame for your sins is yourself. The second you realize that, and start owning it, is the second you start to become a "good" person in my book. Not that my book matters at all. 

I think I'm rambling now, which is good because that's what this whole blog thing is for. If I was forcing lines it would probably lack passion and be boring to read. I guess what I'm trying to encourage is honesty in general. Be true to yourself and your peers, it might be hard and it might stir up some ugly feelings, but you will be blessed in the long run. In my book. :)


  1. that was amazing. i agree completely.
    i definitely believe that realizing what sins you are making is better than denying them all.
    and you cant blame others for your choices.

    very deep, love it.

  2. Being honest about your own struggles causes them to loose most of their destructive powers. A relatively minor sin can be terribly destructive when it’s given a dark place to grow. Very much like mold, it’s most dangerous when it’s in the recesses of your life. If you are dishonest about your struggles you deny others both the blessing of helping you overcome through prayer and the encouragement of knowing they’re not alone. If you are a person who hides their sin you are denying those who love you a potential double blessing. We are here to struggle together, not against each other.

    James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

  3. You need to go past the surface with some people and realize the majority of us struggle with hidden sins. Many times outward sin, like the things you mentioned that appear trivial, are rooted in a much deeper problem. When you really get to know someone, you discover that.
    Point in case: "If you drink until you're drunk every night, and everyone is witness to this, then you really have no real way of denying the fact that you are an alcoholic" - true, but why does this person feel the need to drink until they're drunk each night? Likely, it's something rooted deep within them.

    So the only thing you're really interested in, when dealing with my sin, is being able to trust me, or have me figured out?

  4. Hudson, I know everyone struggles with hidden sin. Heres the point you missed: "If you struggle with pride, greed, gossip, vanity, jealousy and lust (LIKE WE ALL DO) then be honest about it."

    The point is that the symptom of alcoholism is not easily hid, and publicly points the way to true inner healing (to the real problem), while the symptom of bigger pay checks only feeds greed which in the end is just as destructive.

    About the trust comment, I just don't trust lairs. I trust people who are honest about their shortcomings, who aren't in denial. That is just a fact.

  5. This reminds me of the Scarlet Letter......
    I hated the book, but afterwards our class did a project in which we made our own "scarlet letters" to represent our sins and wore them for the entire day. Of course, this meant you couldn't hide your sin - although you were not required to reveal it, should you chose not to do so. It meant your teachers and friends saw that letter and kept guessing "shy? stubborn?" etc. Even if you did not tell people what it meant, it was out on your sleeve. (On your chest, rather.)
    Thing is, it was amazing. It was amazing to not hide behind an ideal of "perfection" as I often do. It was amazing to tell my English class - and other friends - what my letter meant.
    I often appear "perfect". I grew up as the oldest in my family and soon learned if I were struggling, it would hurt my siblings. How could I do that to them? So I stayed perfect. The letter-day was amazing because I didn't have to seem like the perfect student and sister. I seemed like me - a good student and a good sister, I hope, but a person with flaws.

    I used to be an incredibly shy, quiet little thing. I was a good student and I loved reading. But that was the extent of it. To most people, that was all I was.
    It took three years for me to stop hiding. After three years, I found out we were going to move. Besides being mad, I'm a stubborn brat and I wanted to make my last year memorable. I decided to stop hiding and try to find some friends at my school. One of the best years of my life. I kept in touch with my friends and they were the ones who taught me to be open, to trust people.
    8th grade I went to a small (key word), private, Catholic school. Everything was perfect on the outside and everyone tried to be helpful. I couldn't see what people really were behind the "Catholic school" mentality. You were required to be good and religious and holy and perfect. I trusted no one. Now, that I see people from that school outside of the "Catholic school" world, I see who they really are and I like them for it.
    9th grade I went to a large (key word), private, Catholic school. Still a Catholic school. I loved it. People were so much more open, so much more trusting, so much more willing to listen and care. People were real there. That's the school I'm at now (a year and a half later). I love it there. I have great friends and love the place.

    I don't think the point here is that we should just try to pick up on people's sins right away. The point is that secrets don't help us. They make everything worse.

  6. How do you explain the disciples that lived outwardly pleasing lives? In Philippians 2:27, Paul said: "Only let your conduct be worthy of the Gospel of Christ." And in Romans: "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but Alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." My husband does not swear, drink and rarely cusses, that does not mean he has dark evil sins hiding within him, he is the first to admit he is far from perfect and needs God's grace. Yes we all have sin but to distrust people who are striving to live as God wants, is silly in my opinion. We have all fallen short, some people have worked through many of their sins and gotten past them. At first glance their sins are not obvious, that doesn't mean they are putting on a false front. Your Father in law is a good example. He is one of the kindest, purest, outwardly Godly people I have met. Yes he is a sinner as well but he does not have his sin's hanging on his sleeve. I think you do an injustice to people by distrusting them unfoundedly. I think we are all equally sinners, none of us is better then the other, but some are further along in their journey to be Christ like. You may not see someone sin at first or second glance that does not mean they are trying to hide their sin just maybe that they have worked through more of their issues. I am one of the people you would trust more because I am tripping and stumbling often in my walk, but I think it is sad my husband is someone you would automatically distrust. My advice to you is be a little more open minded. I agree with you that many people who show their sins more are beautiful people inside but think they are just not as far in their journey as some others. I think the best bet is to not judge anyone, only God knows our hearts.

  7. Kris,
    I knew that when I posted this that it would be criticized, and generally I don't feel the need to respond to every comment. I've said my piece and I should allow folks to say theirs, but there are a few comments I think need addressing.

    I am not judging anyone. I am merely speaking of my natural distrust for those with hidden sin. For those who do not share their struggles. If you go back and truly read my words, you'll see that. There were two men in Luke 18:13, one justified his sin, and one admitted it. God forgave the one who came forward. I naturally am drawn to those who struggle openly, as Jesus was. What I was alluding to were those whose lives are like "whitewashed tombs" as Jesus mentioned in Matthew 23:27... Clean on the outside but dead on the inside, and in such complete denial of their sin.

    I don't trust them, and I never will. I'll stand by that comment.

    The second comment I need to address is the one you made about Brian, because I love him. A few years before Kristie and I got married, I didn't. He was critical of me and from what I gathered judgmental, but mostly in concern for his daughter. We got to know each other though, and today we share our worries and struggles in life. I consider him a wise man and a mentor, not only because he has so much to teach me, but because he actually tells me things and listens to my opinion! If we had not been honest with each other, our relationship would have remained cold.

    Hopefully that clears up some of your concerns. I try my best not to respond to everything and to allow people a forum to outwardly disagree, but sometimes I feel the need to clarify and reiterate, as my point may have been missed the first time.

  8. Thanks for your response, I see more what you meant in your original post. There are many "whitewashed tombs" walking around who feel they have no need to change. I love your blog, it is very open and thought provoking. I think bouncing our thoughts and opinions off of others is fun and important to do. I learn from hearing different perspectives all the time. I hope you and your wife have a delightful Christmas, you are both inspiring people and an adorable couple! It is refreshing to hear you gush over her in other posts of yours. I'm praying for you both!

  9. so, my friend just sent me the link to your blog and I had never read it before. I just finished reading your post about vices and it was incredible. I wish I could be as articulate and elegant in the way I write as you are. you opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I just wanted to say I really liked it. and thanks :)

  10. hey Matt! I just wanted to say that ever since I started listening to The Classic Crime, I have been a different person. I know that sounds cliche, but I mean it classic. Your lyrics are so incredibly real, and they give me so much to think about. Then my best friend told me you had a I checked it out and here I am lol I am thoroughly convinced that you are one of the most brilliant men on earth. And that's not just false flattery, either. The way you view the world is so thought-provoking and in many of your posts have discussed topics I think about frequently. If reading peoples minds is a crime, I could have you arrested! thank you for writing...and thank you for singing.