Monday Memo: Slippery Slopes

Terry Walton


Slippery Slopes

I was thinking...

Sister Joan Chittister has opened my eyes at many levels with regards to faith journey. She writes on the subject of humility words that struck a chord. Perhaps they will strike a chord with you as well: “…humility is the ability to submit ourselves to the wisdom of another. We are not the last word, the final answer, the clearest insight into anything. We have one word among many to contribute to the mosaic of life, one answer of many answers, one insight out of multiple perspectives. Humility lies in learning to listen to the words, directions, and insights of the one who is a voice of Christ for me now. To stubbornly resist the challenges of people who have a right to lay claim on us and an obligation to do good by us—parents, spouses, teachers, supervisors—is a dangerous excursion into arrogance and a denial of the very relationships that are the stuff of which our sanctity is made. [Humility] brings us face to face with our own struggle for power. It makes us face an authority outside of ourselves. But once I am able to do that, then there is no end to how high I might rise, how deep I might grow.” (A Spirituality for the 21st Century, The Rule of Benedict, P. 85)

The longer my journey on this earth, the more I realize I don’t know what I don’t know. Therefore, I need you and others to help me to see, learn, grow, and hold my arrogance accountable. I so want to be the smartest in the room, yet I never am. I so want to be the one filled with profoundness, yet I never am. I so want to be viewed as the go-to guru on any subject, but I never am. There is so much I don’t know… and I don’t know what I don’t know.

Even the concept of humility is dangerous. If I want to be humble so folks will say “he’s so humble,” then I have failed the humility test. Desiring to be a faithful follower of Jesus the Christ, is a worthy goal, but even that can be fraught with danger. If I have figured out exactly how you must go to be a faithful follower, then I have, in essence, become a card-carrying member of the Pharisees.

Crazy, isn’t it, the slippery slopes that we all live nearby? This is why we need each other. I need you to say to me (sometimes yell it at me) “Careful, you are approaching a slippery slope, watch your step!” I need voices outside of me, because, without a doubt, I have blind spots and rationalizing perspectives that desperately want to win the day for my ego. Maybe you do, too.

Both Matthew and Luke’s gospels record the words of Jesus to be, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, let me take the speck out of your eye, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5; also, Luke 6:41-42 NRSV)

Who are the ‘Christ voices’ to you these days? Is it just folks that agree with everything you think, say, and do? Or do we have a voice or two, that we know will shout from the top of their voice to us if we were to be approaching the slippery slope of arrogance? Jesus was always that voice…that’s why, I think, they crucified him. Sometimes, we’d rather not hear from such a voice…after all, who are they and what do they know?

Always Thinking…

The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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