Don't Question Authority
A few days ago I found myself being triggered yet again by a situation that aroused intense inner feelings of irritation. Each time this happens I now realize I need to view them as an opportunity for me to have deeply hidden lies exposed to the light so potentially healing can then take place. But I have to be willing to allow those lies to surface and cooperate with their exposure if any healing is to really become effective in my heart.
The situation involved a road crew that had blocked off an intersection without closing the road further back. This forced everyone arriving at that intersection to have to turn around and go back some distance to find another way around. I immediately felt offended at their negligence and began questioning the man stopping everyone, even though it became clear he had been put there with no influence over the situation. Since the company doing the work was just a contractor hired by the county there was clearly a lot of potential for everyone involved avoiding responsibility and shifting of blame which only made me more irritated.
Following my feelings to some degree, I pulled up into a driveway closer to the steam roller and gave him a few irritated honks before returning to give the signal man a piece of my mind – but with a great deal of restraint. Still, I knew that my emotions were much more in control of me during those moments far more than my logical mind which in turn began to induce a growing weight of guilt inside of me that hung on for potentially several days.
I know that some would immediately say that I was just being infantile. They have a right to their opinion and it certainly does reflect a pocket of immaturity. But such comments are generally designed to impart shame but has little effect to produce improvement. I started hearing my own shame messages inside, likely from demonic suggestions, messages that all of my claims of being a growing Christian were nothing but a sham. Maybe the new things I am learning about God might be nice and good but as far as really changing me down where it counts they aren't really making any significant difference.
As I sat here this morning after reading My Utmost that addressed directly some other questions I had been mulling over laying in bed before getting up, my mind went back to this episode and I began wondering what lies are still lurking inside my heart that have such power to still cause such intense reactions. I want these lies to not only be exposed but to meet the sterilizing presence of God's truth and be uprooted from the deep hiding places where they have remained for so many years. So I decided to try to make my conscious mind a safer place for these lies to surface by putting aside all impulses to suppress them and see if I could tease them out more into the open.
Here are a few that began to emerge.
- Some people are not fair, particularly when they get authority and power over others.
That's a real big one – this issue of fairness. But what triggers this intense rage in me over unfairness? What in my past set me up to be so angry over people, especially those in authority, who abuse their position or are just plain negligent? Why is fairness such an extremely sensitive subject that can trigger out-of-control feelings and behavior in me? I have seen this same issue in a close friend of mine as well and maybe observing her situation and history might give me some clues.
I know that her father was very abusive at times and very demanding. He used force and intimidation to get his way with his family which produced strong resentment in her heart and created this issue of fairness to be a hair-trigger problem whenever she encounters unfairness from others. That causes me to look back at my own past and remember that my father too was one who generally used force to intimidate his children into obeying rules or else. His view of God was very legalistic and the methods he used to raise his children were very popular in those days, particularly among religious people.
Of course the result of this is that my basic template of God came from the treatment and attitudes that my father and others used in relating to me. I have known this for many years and the lies about God that were implanted in my heart from those early experiences still have a very strong effect on limiting my ability to view Him as a gracious, caring, loving entity. But what else about this situation, what more specific false beliefs might I flush out?
- The father is always right because he has more power than me, and he has no accountability.
- The father cannot be challenged or questioned. You just have to blindly obey even if it makes no sense.
- Keeping rules is far more important than having any two-way relationship of respect.
- Until your behavior is sufficiently in line with the expectations of the one in authority, no relationship of any significance can ever be expected to take place.
- The father or the one in authority doesn't have to explain their decisions or actions. Any suggestions of unfairness are considered acts of rebellion that might be punished summarily.
- Mistakes made by those in authority can be excused or ignored or even denied. But mistakes made by those who are under their authority are dealt with harshly to enforce deeper fear and mindless compliance.
- According to the stern pronouncements of the father, I am a rebel. I have the heart of a rebel and I deserve to be treated and punished as a rebel. Until I can change my attitude and start relating in submission to all authority appropriately (as in unquestioning, blind obedience and compliance), I will be viewed with suspicion and have very limited freedoms.
- Fear of shame and punishment are the primary motives which are to define my relationship with those in authority.
Anytime I find myself in these kinds of conflicts my wife becomes very frightened and annoyed. She tries very quickly to get me away from the situation so as to avoid any embarrassing blow-ups or much worse, harsh reactions on the part of the authorities involved. I can't blame her for feeling this way, but unfortunately her reaction does not create an atmosphere of reassurance or help me to act like my true self in the heat of the moment. My intellectual mind become rather good at being an observer and almost finds amusement in analyzing and evaluating what is taking place in the other half of my brain. But in those times it has almost no power to change me or replace my intense emotions until quite sometime later after it is too late. Meanwhile it can be rather dismayed at the consequences that begin to quickly materialize as my emotions vault me into deeper trouble unless my left brain can insert some safety measure to extract me out of the situation long enough to regain my composure.
But then, that is an interesting idea right there. Regaining composure may be actually returning to a state of denial or a practice of suppressing my triggers rather than dealing with their roots and finding true freedom. I am tired of having these triggers flare up and get me into trouble and damaging my reputation over and over. I want to get to the bottom of the problem instead of building stronger containment walls to just keep them hemmed in. I was trained from childhood that the right way to relate to such internal urges was simply to repress them. But now I realize that the only effective path to real growth is to face these roots and expose the lies beneath these triggers and deal with the core seed of the problem rather than trying to suppress or manage the emotions triggered by certain social interaction patterns.
As I ponder over this list of lies I can see how my picture of God at a deep level is reflective of my induced feelings about my own father. It seems impertinent to even say such things, but if I am really honest about what my feelings believe I have to admit that these early experiences cause me to view God as selfish, as more interested in His own reputation than in caring for or looking out for His children, at least this one. I have felt that His demands for worship seem rather egotistical and many of His rules arbitrary. I was plainly taught by my own father that some of God's laws were intended to be arbitrary just so God could see if I would be willing to obey Him without any good reason. Obedience could then be proof that I was loyal to Him. Otherwise I would be subject to stern and dangerous punishments and even death if I did not conform to His demands for perfect obedience.
I have been learning over the past twenty years that all of these ideas about God are false. However, my heart was formed in an environment full of these beliefs and I am still influenced by many of these opinions about Him to some extent. Of course, most of the abusive examples of the exercise of authority carried out by law-enforcement officers, government agents and even sometimes church leaders only reinforce these dark views of God at my heart level.
How am I to get free of these terrible and damaging beliefs that remain so firmly rooted deep inside of me? I don't have the full answer for that yet. I still have to trust God to renew my mind by filling me with the truth about Him and hope that it will soak down deeper to where these lies still flourish and grow like virus pockets that infect my whole system. It is like Malaria that can linger in one's system for years and pop up at any time whenever it is triggered.
I have to trust that the new truths that God has been revealing to me recently really can change my heart and allow Him access to more and more painful places in my memories and past experience. I want that to happen more and to begin to have an even more intimate trust and relationship with a God who is not like the examples of authority I have grown up around.