Truth is Love

(This is an exerpt from the third chapter of my soon to be released book, Grappling with God: The Battle for Authentic Faith.)

 

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

 

I was a participant on a weekend retreat whose aim was to equip me to be more honest and live more in integrity.  I found myself packed into a small room with my team waiting to have our performance evaluated on a series of projects we had completed. There were facilitators present who had been monitoring our team work. They were there to empower us to examine the extent to which we operated in good faith, living true to our commitments, principles and values.

I was scared, unaccustomed to accountability. I felt like I was back in the Principal’s office, terrified that I was going to get in trouble. I realized I spent most of my life trying to be good and do everything right in order to avoid getting punished. I had made it a point to avoid accountability and scrutiny at all costs. As my fear grew, I began to ask myself, “Why in the world did I sign up for a retreat on truthfulness and accountability?” “What was I thinking?”

Time passed and I began to feel a bit calmer and let down my guard. Out of the blue, one of the facilitators asked who on our team was responsible for cleaning the bathrooms. In that instant, it seemed as if I was a prisoner caught trying to escape and the spotlight was pointed right at me. Oh no! Everything shifted to slow motion and I was on the hot seat and my buns were frying!

I knew I had been working hard and accomplishing a number of tasks. My mind started reviewing the cleaning task we had been working on that morning. Suddenly, I remembered I had agreed to make a final check of the bathrooms and I had forgotten to do it. It was my fault! I was the culprit.

In an instant, I felt like I was fighting for my life. I had blown it and left myself open to get in trouble. How could I defend myself? Didn’t it make a difference that I had done so much more than everyone else on my team. I had worked the hardest and had done the most and didn’t that count for something?

Over the next couple hours, the facilitators along with my team members attempted to help me to admit the truth that I was at fault. They wanted me to tell the truth that I had failed to follow through on what I committed to do. I felt like they wanted me to admit I had lied and my defense was that I had simply forgotten. In my mind, they wanted to blame, shame and punish me.

Later I would see that my inability to love and accept myself was preventing me from admitting that I had made a mistake. How could I be wrong and stay on my own side? What I feared they wanted to do to me was in fact what I had been doing to myself for years. I was my own harshest critic. My attempts to defend myself became a self-fulfilling prophecy. My stubborn defensiveness was what caused others to want to punish me–not my failure to clean the bathrooms!

Gradually, their persistence broke through my resistance. I realized that they were investing in me and not trying to beat me up. They were determined to help me see what was true and at the same time accept myself. Admitting I was wrong and accepting that I had fallen short was something I had rarely done. Historically, my strategy had been to try and be perfect so that no one could ever punish me again.

My breakdown along with their commitment to truth became the gateway to my experience of grace and forgiveness. My willingness to put myself in a situation where I would be seen and held accountable opened the door for me to experience a deeper level of self-acceptance and grace. My strategy to avoid making mistakes at all costs was robbing me of the joy of discovering that the world was both a classroom and a playground in which I could try new things, make mistakes, learn, and grow.

 

5 Responses to “Truth is Love”
  1. Andrew Mercer 18 April 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Rich,

    This is a great article, I can’t wait to read your book, Grappling With God- its going to be a powerful tool with a powerful message.

    Andrew

  2. Rich 18 April 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Thanks Andrew for the support and encouragement.

  3. Mr. Haas 29 May 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Rich please send me your cell and home phone. I would like to visit. Rich Frank and I just finished listening to your Ordination service and we were deeply touch by all the comments made about you and the talk you gave. You are a special miracle of God and we feel a rich blessing in being a small part of that. We love you and Sue very much!!!! Gloria (Mrs.) Haas

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Published: 18.04.2011 / 05:31 AM

Category: Grappling with God,Relationships,Spiritual Growth

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