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Lashing Out

Lashing Out

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” John 8:48

Not everyone was caught by surprise when my addiction came to light. There were a couple of individuals who had figured out what was happening, and in my downward spiral, they sought to warn me. I chastised them, telling them to mind their own business. I assaulted their character, calling them busybodies, hypocrites, and gossips. I was clearly in the wrong – I was addicted and needed help – but when I felt threatened, I lashed out at those trying to help me. Unable to accept the criticism of others, I went on the attack.

This common defense mechanism is one that the Pharisees employed in today’s passage. In the story, Jesus told the Pharisees that they weren’t of God, but rather of the devil. The Pharisees though, considered themselves to be the religious elite and in their arrogance, remained completely incapable of considering the possibility that they were in the wrong. So, they attacked Jesus. We don’t follow demons. You’re the one with a demon (my paraphrase). Enraged by Jesus accusation, they actually tried to stone him before he slipped away.

For many of us, this is unfortunately a common reaction when confronted with the suggestion that we’re in the wrong. Our ego simply cannot bear the pain of accepting that we’re flawed. We may be critical of ourselves, but when someone else points out that we’re engaging in self-destructive behavior, we lash out. How dare you? I don’t have a problem. You’re the problem, you hypocrite!

The challenge is to remain humble . . . on both sides of the confrontation. If I find myself addressing a brother’s problematic behavior, I must ask if I truly have just cause to do so. Being a busybody, hypocrite, or a gossip are real possibilities. I’m no Jesus. Am I trying to help my brother, or am I just being critical, while remaining blind to my own flaws?

When confronted, I must also choose humility. It does me no good to ignore the advice of a loving friend, who is simply concerned. When my ego feels threatened, I must recognize my pride and refuse the inclination to lash out. I must humbly consider the possibility that I have an issue which needs to be addressed. Choosing humility isn’t easy but lashing out only compounds my problems.

 

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