18 May 17
“Lectures you deliver may be wise and true,
Yet, I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you, and the high advice you give,
But, there’s no misunderstanding the way you act and live.”
Edgar A Guest
It has always struck me as curious that David, Solomon, Samson, and virtually all great “heroes” of the Old Testament lived long enough to know that their embarrassing character flaws would be carefully chronicled by Old Testament writers, so we could all read about them, in scathing detail, thousands of years later.
Surely, all those messy, damaging details could have been left out of the historical text. What is the point in tarnishing the memory of an otherwise great national hero? Why not confine “history” to only great and noble deeds?
I have to believe the reason that both good and bad were faithfully recorded is so that we later readers can know and understand that “perfect” character, and thus a “perfect” life, doesn’t happen on Earth. Down here, for all of us, even kings, it is a life-long struggle. We struggle against challenges of all kinds, bacteria, personal weaknesses, but mostly against our own vanity and selfish impulses.
Writers of scripture must have known, when we later readers believed any of these ancient “heroes” were perfect, we might elevate them to the status of gods. As it is, we can know, despite moments of brilliance and nobility, all were “only too human!”
Lesson for the rest of us:
In this life, you’re going to stumble and fall, mostly because of your own stupidity and arrogance. You can lie there, making phoney excuses for yourself, or you can repent of your self-indulgent foolishness and drive on. In any event, people will judge you as doltish and conceited, and they’ll mostly be right. Sincere repentance is the act of assuring that they will not continue to be right, forever!
“Regret” and “repentance” are not the same thing!
“Regret” is merely wishing things were different, absent a willingness to act in order to cause a change. By contrast, “repentance” is a sincere and humble admission that you’re going the wrong way, combined with a personal resolve to change direction. “Regret” is useless emotion that requires no effort and is thus as common as it is profitless. “Repentance,” however, calls for action and is thus rare, and ever dangerous and painful. Even repentance cannot alter history, but it will change the future. “Regret,” and ever-attendent self-pity, change nothing, and like all emotions, accomplish nothing.
Thus in our age, self-indulgent philandering by FDR, Bill Clinton, all the Kennedy brothers, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, to name just a few, was with scant exception, continuous, smug, and unremorseful, although when caught in the act, all expressed cynical “regret” (over having been caught).
Unlike David, Samson, et al, none ever repented, nor humbled themselves, nor altered their lifestyle. Much to their eternal embarrassment, it has all been duly recorded, in lurid detail. Future generations will “read all about it!”
Unfortunately, they set a poor example. All were, and remained, deeply flawed. Yet, all had moments of enlightenment and grandeur.
Best advice for the rest of us (from the notable and truly repentant):
“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”
Against your last day, make sure your flaws die before you do!
Atilla the Hun
“Most people think shadows follow, precede, or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses, and memories.”
“You can’t choose your battlefield. The gods do that for you. But, you can plant a standard where a standard never flew”