The Cloak of Self-Protection

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More thoughtful analysis from the book, Inside Out:

The inside look that brings about real change is unnerving, and it should be. The diagnosis of sin is not a pleasant one, and we tend to resist it whenever we can, preferring to think we’ve come farther than we have.

We simply must get to the core of the matter. The kind of change that most delights our Lord will never occur as long as we fuss only with sin in behavior or pain in the heart. Sin in the heart must be uncovered, looked at, and dealt with. When we understand we’re thirsty people who foolishly go in the wrong directions to find water, then we can look at our style of relating with the openness to recognizing a demanding, self-protective motive beneath our actions.

But we won’t see these wrong directions on our own, any more than a coal miner will see where to dig without the help of a flashlight. Disciplined people won’t recognize their protective (and unappealing) rigidity without help. Analytic types will fail to see that their cool logic, far from being admired, discourages those who would like to be close friends. Successful extroverts may go through life thinking everyone enjoys their social noise. Shy people may continue to regard themselves as quiet because of temperament and never see that their quietness is a protective cloak.

We need help to see ourself clearly. When we’re serious about taking an inside look, God provides three sources of light:

  1. The Spirit of God,
  2. The Word of God,
  3. The People of God.

Each resource can be used to replace the blindness of self-deceit with the clear vision of integrity. ~Larry Crabb

Self-protection is an easy place to run to when one has been hurt over and over again.  I’m one of those people who was hurt early in life from abuse (not an excuse just a reason).  This has helped to solidify in my mind that all people are not safe people.  And I have chosen to protect myself.  I hid behind my anger for many years.  Then I turned it inward and became depressed.

God has done an amazing work in me.  I am learning to become vulnerable.  The Spirit of God works within the heart and mind searching deeply.  He reveals the hidden darkness, the ugly ways of relating.

And I have learned to love The Word of God.  I’ve delved deeply into the intricacies of His Word to gain more of His mind.  I pray that I will be washed with the water of His word.  And I’m finding more and more His delight in answering that prayer.  😕

But, getting close to the People of God has not been easy.  That’s where the hurt can begin…again.

We’re all sinners.  Each one of us on this earth is sinful.  Some of us are redeemed and some are not.  God’s people are redeemed.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re always nice!  I mean, the old saying, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” seems to be apropos in the way we deal with one another in the church.  Lots of us think we have been given the title “Holy Spirit” and we choose to speak for Him at will…and I’m not talking about His will!

Hurt people hurt people.
It’s another old saying, but very true and well worth remembering.

I like what Crabb has to say.  But, that third source of light…hmmmm…it has become harder and harder to trust.  I wonder how much more effective we would be in the church if we would truly follow the exhortations in scripture?

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you should answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

Some would quickly answer, “But salt stings!” as an excuse for their biting ways.  To them I say, “Delve deeply into the Word.”

Gracious:   that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech…good will, loving-kindness, favour

Salt:  salt is a symbol of lasting concord, because it protects food from putrefaction and preserves it unchanged….wisdom and grace exhibited in speech

So…what are the characteristics of gracious speech?

A sweetness that is delightful to the ears.
A charm that is lovely, not deceitful.
A pleasure that gives joy in the hearing.

Words which preserve fellowship.
Wise words full of lovingkindness for all.

I desire an inside look and am actively pursuing that goal, learning how to move past my self-protective ways.  In this walk of sanctification we’re taking together, let’s (the Church) learn to be gracious with one another.  It is hard to be vulnerable.  Some of us are hurting, deeply.  We need gentle care to be able to heal.

Do not tread where angels fear to go.

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7 responses »

  1. I really liked this post. I praise God for His wisdom that has been available to me when it comes to building relationships. As another saying goes “Some people are meant to be in your life for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. You just have to know which is which.” This applies to both believers and unbelievers alike. I have to admit I haven’t always been wise in terms of trusting but God has definitely done a good work in me this past year and I am wiser in terms of my relationships, what I share/don’t share, what level of friendship God wants me to have (reason, season, lifetime). Basically I have learned that every relationship in my life is not about me, about companionship, and/or about fun. The purpose can and usually is higher than that in fact a lot of times God brings people in my life that call for a complicated/complex relationship but it’s to strengthen me in Him, in His ways, in His love and grace. And when we begin to look at relationships and interactions with other people in our lives from that perspective we’re more likely to be at peace, have godly relationships, and trust people with the wisdom and knowledge of God.

    Like you said, becoming a believer does not make us the Holy Spirit or even closely equivalent. In fact while there is a great change on the inside and God is creating a new creation through us which we can be thankful for, becoming a believer really doesn’t change our humanness or the fact that we are equally sinful, in need of God, susceptible to falling as someone who doesn’t believe/know Him. If anything the change that comes from knowing Him should show humility, grace and meekness in our relationships like we’ve never been able to show before. We are called to be ‘set apart’ yet somehow believers have the greatest tendency to pass judgment, treat others (especially other believers) harshly for their shortcomings etc.

    Phew. So much work to be done in and through our lives and relationships, huh?

    I am thankful to be able to trust you. Thank you for being such a wonderful sister and friend to me. Love you ❤

  2. Great Post Sis – although i’m not completely won over by the last line. Angels will do the Lord’s will, whether they fear to tread there or not.

    Fear God, not places or things!

    ‘Each resource can be used to replace the blindness of self-deceit with the clear vision of integrity. ~Larry Crabb’

    i agree that those CAN be used to replace the blindness of self-deceit – but self deceit has been with us since the very day of our birth and is no easy thing to be rid of. It is capable of living inside of us and perverting our understanding even as we try to apply those things to our life – the life our self-deceit is the master of by reason of it’s intimate knowledge of, and constant presence in, our earthly life – even while we try to adopt a christian way of living down here.

    Self deceit is not ever superior to God, but it is very capable of being superior to our will to follow Him as He would have us, making us instead follow the god WE (it) would have us do.

    This is what i try to make people more aware of – awakened to – in order that they no longer be deceived to the same extent and is, along with other parts of your post what i was referring to later in my post: ‘i am different’ where we might see the wild-eyed thing staring back at us from within our own inner darkness.

    ‘Analytic types will fail to see that their cool logic, far from being admired, discourages those who would like to be close friends.’

    Not all of us fail to see it – even if we frequently fail to overcome it 😉

    <B

  3. “If anything the change that comes from knowing Him should show humility, grace and meekness in our relationships like we’ve never been able to show before.”

    Amen, Gch! I’m thankful for you, as well. You’ve been a delight to know!! I’m hoping our season is a lifetime. 😀

    “This is what i try to make people more aware of – awakened to – in order that they no longer be deceived to the same extent and is, along with other parts of your post, what i was referring to later in my post: ‘i am different’ where we might see the wild-eyed thing staring back at us from within our own inner darkness.”

    Unfortunately, Love, I’ve seen that wild-eyed thing staring back too much recently…but He is faithful to reveal what He wants to change. I can trust Him to completely fulfill the work He began. Even when I am unfaithful, He remains faithful.

    In my mind, the angels fearing to tread: angels won’t dare go where God has not given permission. But we (Christians) sometimes jump in without understanding God’s timing/will. 😕

  4. I can relate to this Michelle, firstly the importance of identifying our own cloaks of self-protection so that we can be open and authentic about our lives. It is only in that authenticity (and vulnerability) that the people of God can truly speak to and encourage each other.

    And that’s where it kind of falls apart. Just as it is each of our own responsibility to let go of our cloaks and walls, we have an equally strong and very important responsibility of loving one another without judgement, of encouraging one another without criticism and giving advice and sharing wisdom without any condemnation. And in both cases having the one but not the other just doesn’t work.

  5. I agree Michelle, that our fragile human ego makes it hard for us to accept that we are responsible for committing a sin. We want to shift the blame elsewhere, or simply try to ignore what we have done.
    As you say, we all have character flaws, and commit sins. If we don’t take a hard, honest look at our selves, we will go right on committing sins, and suffer the consequences.

    We need to have the desire to change. We need to have a source of faith that will give us the confidence to believe we can change. Faith that the future will be better if we do.

    The basis for how we treat others is often found in how we have been treated in the past. We must examine that past, with an honest heart, if we are going to stop letting it dictate how we treat the people around us. If the past involved pain, then it will be painful to relive it. Faith can be the antidote to lessen that pain. It won’t take the pain away, it will make us more willing to accept it.

    I wish you luck on your walk of sanctification. Let your faith be the gentle care that will heal you.

  6. You said it, Rain. That is where it falls apart. To see our own sin should cause humility in our relationships, knowing we’re all capable of falling. I think when we focus on others’ sins, instead of our own, we treat one another in pride. And God says pride is the ugliest of all. “Without criticism or condemnation”…I’ve found that to be a rarity, except with Him. His grace is immeasurable. Thanks for hearing me, Rain.

    I agree, Ed. Our past hurts do tend to give us a template of how to react in the present. That’s where the deep work needs to be done. And it is hard, it’s the hardest part of growth, I think. I’m in the middle of it now…step four…a searching fearless moral inventory.

    Thankfully, God continues to reassure me of His love and faithfulness. No matter what else changes in my life, I know He will remain. He gives that gentle care and helps me heal. Thank you for listening.

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