What’s My Excuse?

What’s My Excuse?

But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2

Working with those who’re addicted, I’ve been taught to ask about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): neglect, abuse, or violence. I know from my training that ACEs are associated with an increase in substance use disorders. It’s not an excuse for that individual’s addiction, but it helps me understand the patient and guides treatment, as I hopefully address both the substance use and the psychological impact of past traumatic events. It’s often horrifying to hear what some of my patients have been through. No wonder you use drugs. They came from terribly dysfunctional childhoods and it’s no surprise that they’ve grown up into dysfunctional adults.

During my own chemical use assessment, I was asked about ACEs. I didn’t have any. I grew up in a loving, stable home with no childhood trauma. Still, I became addicted to opioids. I had no excuse. Here’s the absurd thing though – In my opioid use, I considered myself better than the guy using heroin. I’m not an addict. I’m a physician taking medicine. Looking back now though, I can see that my addictive behavior was more corrupt because I knew better. I knew how I was supposed to live. I was a hypocrite, believing in one thing and living another, which made me worse off than the guy who simply knows no different life.

This is the lesson of Pharaoh in today’s passage. In the story, Moses went to Pharaoh, asking him to let the Hebrews travel into the wilderness to worship God. Pharaoh responded that he didn’t know this God and that he wasn’t going to let the Hebrews go. Additionally, he was going to make their work conditions even harsher. Pharaoh is obviously the bad guy in the story. Pharaoh though, was at least consistent in his beliefs. He didn’t know the Hebrew God and so he had no reason to listen to him.

In reading such stories, I often divide the world into good guys and bad guys. Pharaoh was a bad guy. Even in my addiction, I saw myself as the good guy. Again though, there’s an inherent absurdity to my viewpoint. Pharaoh simply didn’t know any better and acted in a manner consistent with his beliefs. In my addiction, I behaved in a manner completely contrary to my beliefs.

What’s the point? My point is that if we claim to know and follow God, it must radically impact how we live. We may consider ourselves better because, as Christians, we’re forgiven. But if we claim to follow God but simply follow ourselves, then we’re actually more corrupt than those who don’t believe in him. If we know the truth, it must affect how we live, or we’re simply hypocrites, worse off than those who don’t know any better.

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