I have a habit of being in the middle of multiple books at one time. If one is a romance novel and one is biography of Mother Teresa and one is about the habits of highly successful people, I’m on pretty solid footing in terms of not confusing things in my mind. Books typically fall pretty easily into a category, and you can pick one up and dive right back in where you left off – almost right into the thought you had when you last put it down, just like when you turn off your car in the middle of a song and when you get back into the car you find yourself ready to sing the lyrics where the song left off.
My work book club just finished reading Leadership and Self-Deception, and it has me not on solid footing. Every time I picked it up, I felt like I was lost a bit and couldn’t find my place. It was annoying and irritating, especially for what’s a pretty basic tale of two different kinds of people: people who are in a box (bad) and people who are not in a box (good). The premise is that people who are in a box can’t be good leaders because they are self-focused and not self aware. They don’t view others as they are or view the world as it is, and instead view everything in relation to self. People outside the box appreciate people and see their value and see them as they are.
Today was our last discussion on this book and our group made lists of the character qualities for people inside the box and people outside of the box: inside people are limited and objectify and are judgmental, while outside people are listeners and are open-minded to new ways. As the character lists took shape something started to click in me, but it didn’t solidify and the annoyance persisted. So I left the meeting glad to see that book club end and glad to put that book on a shelf in my office.
It wasn’t until an unrelated conversation with a smaller group of the same work friends that a realization started to really take root. We were laughing and telling old stories, and I jokingly said something cynical – and it hit me like a toilet from outer space in the first episode of Dead Like Me that the word “judgmental” applies to me.
Mom Beth is outside the box. She encourages and praises and believes her girls can do anything. She does the same with all their friends – she wants these girls and everyone around them to believe that they can be and do anything. She has ways she likes to do things but she really works at letting her girls do things their own way and at their own pace.
Work Beth is outside of the box. She loves the people in her office and is excited when they succeed and when they have new ideas. Work Beth is Mom Beth. She can’t say that at the office because it might offend some people – but she is a smiling, proud Momma each time they meet a goal.
Christian Beth is outside the box. She loves different kinds of worship and talking about philosophy and she thinks that all different kinds of Christians will see each other in heaven – Baptists and Methodists and Unitarians and Catholics and Pentecostals and all sorts of others whose names I can’t recall right now. She believes the Bible and science can go together.
Work Beth is Mom Beth is Christian Beth. Beth is the same no matter where you encounter her, and she is outside the box.
But I realized today that that’s not really true recently, and that’s why I am annoyed at this book. There’s an Internal Beth, and that Beth is angry and that Beth is judgmental. Judgmental is an inside the box characteristic. The Beth that firmly believes a criminal deserves grace and can be forgiven cannot extend forgiveness to people who changed her children’s lives forever. The Beth that believes that all sin is equal in the eyes of God and the Beth that knows that she is not perfect and she is a sinner secretly harbors an equally firm belief that some people deserve lives filled with pain and misery.
Self-Betrayal is clearly defined in the book: when you know how you should act and you choose to act differently.
Coincidentally, I’ve been reading about and thinking a good bit about forgiveness. I just didn’t connect it all until today. I am well aware that I need to forgive. And yet, I am not there yet. And not only am I not there yet, I don’t even want to forgive certain people. So as awful as it is and as it sounds, the truth is that I am thankful for my own forgiveness and I don’t want to forgive all others. I only want to forgive as long as it’s within certain parameters and yet that’s just not how forgiveness works.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…
My forgiveness is fractured. It’s like a bone that’s cracked. And we all know what happens when bones are fractured and not properly treated. Pain and swelling and discomfort.
I can’t decide if I think forgiveness is brave. Can something that’s mandatory also be brave? God calls us to forgive and so for me, words like expected and mandatory do not go with brave.
And yet brave or not brave, I have to do something about forgiveness. Because fractures heal one way or another with time – properly or improperly. Doing nothing is a decision to choose a lifetime of complications.