There are many costumes pride wears. One I’ve been guilty of was “We need to keep this secret so we don’t hurt God’s reputation”. God finally got it through my thick skull that He is totally capable of taking care of His own reputation in the way He sees fit. He doesn’t need me to defend Him. (Reading even a few of many stories in the Bible makes it totally clear that God is all about being authentic/truthful at the expense of His reputation.)
Another costume came to my attention today: Discretion.
My brother “G” and I have had a falling out. It’s a long story having to do with what he sees as me butting my nose in and not exercising “discretion” and what I see as his responding to me in a very unloving, unkind, and un-Christlike way.
It wasn’t until today that I realized his use of “discretion” encompassed keeping all skeletons in a closet–not living authentically. That fact became glaringly obvious to me when he suggested at the end of his final letter to me, “Should our paths cross at weddings, funerals, or the like, there is no need to be unfriendly or to feel uncomfortable. In fact, no one need to ever even suspect that there is this separation between us. This will spare (various family members) and many others from the pain that this rift within our family must otherwise inevitably cause them. And it will spare the cause of Christ any damage swirling rumors may engender.” (He seems to think he needs to protect God’s reputation, too.)
Our initial fall-out started because I found out about a skeleton in his immediate family’s closet and I asked him about it. I had found out that his relationship with one of his sons was broken. I was coming from a place of concern, compassion and with a desire to help if I could–to be a sounding board if he would like. His response was uncharacteristically vicious, and I was quite taken aback by it. In that response, he included the directive to stay out of it, to which I replied that I would honor his wishes unless I believed God was directing me to say something else because I answered to God and God alone.
I didn’t get any response from him on that point.
Many years later, I believed God was calling on me to say something. Several circumstances had presented themselves for me to begin and grow a relationship with this son. The son spoke a little bit of the brokenness between himself and his father, but he never shared any details about what caused the brokenness. In my correspondence to G, or his wife, I never felt free to mention this son’s visits–even though the son stayed at our house for days at a time on some visits. It felt dishonest to me.
Wanting to live in authenticity and truth, I one day let them know I had been getting to know their son and had, in fact, just had a nice visit with him and I wondered if perhaps there was some kind of misunderstanding or assumption going on between that son and my brother, as it was the only thing that made sense to me–since I had believed that both my brother and this son were trying to live godly lives.
This son of G’s was a very nice human being, and he was obviously heartbroken over the chasm that had formed between himself and his dad–preventing him from even having a relationship with his mother.
My “coming clean” and suggestion that there might be a misunderstanding or assumption going on was met with even more venom! He, in so many words, blasted me, and then he virtually slammed the door in my face by saying, “I will not discuss with you any of this further, and I do not wish to hear from you further in regard to it.” This was not the brother I had grown up with whom I had once described as having a heart of gold.
He told me I would benefit from a study in the Bible on discretion.
I responded to that e-mail asking for clarification about how he thought I was not using discretion and I also let him know that his blasting me and slamming the door in my face based on an assumption he made, rather than having a conversation with me about it, was unfair, unloving and therefore unChristlike.
I can only assume that he never read that e-mail as he never responded to it.
I left it at that for a year or two more, but I felt the fracture in our relationship. In my opinion, he had sinned against me. I was hurt and I no longer felt safe to engage in conversation with him.
I wanted to let it all go, but it wouldn’t go. I was dealing with it by avoiding it and avoiding interactions with him. At times, I had to battle feelings of resentment wanting to form.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I decided that God would have me hand-write a letter to him, letting him know about the brokenness I was feeling and how he had hurt me with his mean remarks. After all, avoidance is not taught in Scripture–letting a brother know of his offense is. (Matthew 18)
A couple days ago I got an e-mail from him with more mean remarks and no ownership of his ill-treatment of me. In his mind, his anger and “rebuke” was justified because I had not exercised discretion. *I* was the one who owed *him* an apology.
To this day, I am confounded as to where his anger towards me came from. If his initial reply to me many years ago had been more along the lines of, “I really appreciate your concern for my son and myself, but this is something I would prefer to not discuss with you” I would have respected that and not felt threatened or hurt. There was no need for anger in that exchange–or any of our exchanges, in my opinion.
I still would have spoken up as I felt God leading me to later on, as I did, but even that could have been met with, “I understand and appreciate your desire to be obedient to God, walk in truth and not keep secrets from me, but I do not wish from this point forward to hear of your interactions with my son. No, it wasn’t a misunderstanding or an assumption, but let’s leave it at that. I acknowledge that he is sometimes part of your life, but I would prefer to keep that a topic that we avoid.” That’s how I believe Jesus would have handled it. It’s also a response that would not have involved sin against me or caused our relationship to break. Knowing that he now knew I was in contact with his son, I could have continued enjoying his son without feeling like I was hiding anything from my brother. The matter could have been dropped and the relationship could have stayed in tact.
But that is not the path my brother chose. Instead, he chose anger and insults. 😦
Regardless–I love my brother and my heart grieves for him. I see him now as being blinded by pride and a misguided effort to protect God’s reputation. If he looked deeper into that, would he discover that it is really his own reputation he is worried about? I don’t know. All I do know is that truth and authenticity are being smothered under the label of discretion that is actually a costume his pride is wearing. He is totally blinded to that truth. 😦
Pride makes us keep all our skeletons in our closet. Consequently, we close ourselves off from others’ wise counsel and input and we carry a burden all by ourselves that is meant to be shared in a loving community.
Discretion keeps unneeded details secret. Pride keeps the whole matter a secret, smothering authenticity and truth.
Keeping sins or brokenness hidden in darkness/secrecy is not discretion–that’s pride masquerading as discretion.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
My heart grieves for G and for our now broken relationship. But I know all of it is in God’s hands. I will be praying for all of it. God will redeem, restore and renew if He sees fit. His will be done.