A big confessional like this means that I either have done or am about to do something ill-conceived and prone to regret. Unfortunately feeling like an idiot is not the same as knowing how to be wise. Generally the thing to do is shut up and wait until you understand why the contemplated action intuitively seemed ill-advised. But it is my silence I undertake to complain about, and I have thought about it a long time.
You see, although my reputation generally is for telling everyone exactly why I think they are wrong, I actually only do this when I don’t realize how badly it will be taken. I want people to like me and I don’t enjoy being thought an arrogant blow-hard with no modesty left to lose. I don’t want to look like an idiot and constantly think I can make myself look just a little smarter, particularly when I acutely realize my own ignorance. Of course it’s the old adage: Better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt. But I abhor doubt.
Anyway, for all you might think I speak my mind, I don’t; I only speak my flattery, or what I think will raise your opinion of me. “He thinks I’m wrong! He must be sooo wise!”
Sometimes, once in a while, I am clever enough to know better.
If you are a vocal advocate of gay rights, I haven’t told you that I think homosexuality is morally wrong, period. (Oh gosh, I can’t leave it at that, what will people think!) I am not trying to get anyone thrown in jail over it, but I would far rather see the state get out of the business of marriage altogether than legalize gay marriage. I entertain the notion of never being legally married under auspices where gay marriage is allowed.
If you are a vocal conservative, I haven’t told you that I’ve never voted. I might have told you that I don’t believe America is a Christian nation. I might have said I think all politicians are corrupt. But I probably didn’t say that it’s not the corruption of the politicians that keeps me from voting. I don’t vote on the active principle that government is none of my business.
If you think it’s great that we drop bombs on dictators, shoot terrorists, and execute criminals, I may have agreed that it’s idiotic for anyone to think we can have effective government without those things. If you could push a button right now and make every atomic bomb and gun in the whole world disappear, someone would be out there with sticks and clubs bashing heads in to get their way. Lethal force is the ultimate authority, and nobody can hope for safety without controlling lethal force. But I don’t believe Christians are called to safety.
If you’re my boss or some important person, you may have heard me say something really cheeky. Maybe even offensive. Maybe borderline insubordinate. But I didn’t realize it would offend you before it got out of my mouth, because I’m intimidated by you and I’ll play it safe as best I know how. I’m just orally handicapped and stuff comes flying out that scares me when I see how people react to it.
If you identify yourself as Christian, I didn’t tell you that I’ve never been baptized. Yeah. It’s awkward. And then you’d want to do something about it and that would be even more awkward because I wouldn’t know what to do. There’s nothing wrong with baptism and there’s a great deal for it but it’s so involved in enterprise Christianity that my avoidance of one became an avoidance of the other.
I don’t fear death unless I think it might hurt more than a mosquito bite.
If you admire me I think I’m better than you because I don’t have to be afraid that you will not like me.
I am basically a fearful small mammal. Some of you know that quite well and some of you haven’t figured it out. I can be considerate, charming, cheeky, brazen, and even (in some reckonings) wise, but it is for the purpose of you liking me more.
I’ve sometimes found a higher love, and it is very, very humbling. But I haven’t found that very often. And I don’t like to be humiliated.