Sunday, January 28, 2024

Puffed Up? Built Out!

Sunday morning view
Two random occurrences within a week came together in my thoughts. The first was considering the use of 1 Corinthians 8.1+2, "We know that 'all of us possess knowledge.' This 'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he/she knows something, she/he does not yet know as he/she ought to know." (English Standard Version) The other was reading a blog entitled, "The Advice Epidemic" on The Minimalists website. A portion reads, "Each time we advise someone, it may feel like it's arising from a place of love, but it's actually the ego saying I know what's best for you....There is no bigger ego than that of the Helper."

Later this year will mark 43 years as an ordained pastor. This means four years of graduate school, the recommendation of a board of experienced clergy and graduate school faculty, and a congregation which recognized my skills and personality as being beneficial for spiritual leadership. Not only is there knowledge, but some people claim an innate desire to be a helper. This often is surrounded by a phrase of awe and praise, "God chose you!" In other words, the probability of operating out of an increasingly puffed up ego is inevitable. From childhood I had a large cranium. The skull grew proportionally in the developmental years. In adulthood, while the bony structure stabilized the ego inflated like an airbag in a front end collision. 

Joshua Fields Millburn (one of The Minimalists) continues, "The ego is not a 'bad' thing. Just like fire is not 'good' or 'bad.' It can warm you; it can burn you...To advise is t put oneself on a pedestal, a plinth upon which no sincere person rests - it necessitates we look down on others, which is an abhorrent position for any human."

Sharing insight, frailties, and life itself is an honorable and worthwhile activity. I can share when asked, but I can also choose to get into a prescriptive mode. When I relate what has worked and not worked for me at 

various times of my life, this is descriptive sharing. Yet it feeds my ravenous ego to get into the mindset of, "if he/she/they would only listen." The ego expands as I relish my superiority all while imagining people looking up to me. Those words reverberate loud and clear, "God chose you for this work!"

I wonder why we don't call one another out on this perspective which rarely creates commonality or beneficial results? Could it be that all of us are so inundated with election year egos that we no longer notice? Advice giving, not about issues and policies, but name calling and disparaging personal attacks are normative. The tenor is that individuals are too ignorant to understand. If fear can be generated we will worship the one who provides easy directives to complex issues.  Ostentatious advice isn't about ignorance. It is about a puffed up ego. Puffed up egos are not cute!

Again from "The Advice Epidemic, "I don't want to help you; I don't want to nor help you, either. I want to Love you. Love requires speaking the Truth and remaining neutral as to whether it 'helps' anyone...The Truth does not require persuasion, coaxing, or coercion - it is the Truth whether you've convinced or not. As is Love."

Stay Puft from

My current image and understanding of the words from 1 Corinthians 8, is using love, not to build up, but to build out. Building up may use less space, but it also limits access. Then it becomes an unspoken (possibly spoken) hierarchy of height. Love becomes measured on a vertical axis. As love is built out it surrounds and includes. Love encompasses and nourishes. It's similar to radiating ripples on an infinite pool of water. It is not my helping or advice which sustains this process. Tossing love into the pool of humanity while allowing the same to ripple in multiple directions in my life provides a freedom which an inflated ego cannot experience. 

In an episode of Ted Lasso, Coach Roy Kent answers a question in a press conference following the unrestrained reactions of one of the Richmond players toward an obnoxious fan. (If you want to watch the clip)

It is Roy's words, "So for Isaac to do what he did today, even though it was wrong, I give him love." which I believe are the essence of allowing love to build out. My desire is to locate myself in that horizontal plain. God did not choose me. God created me in the swells and troughs of a magnificent, ongoing creation. My desire is to wade and waddle in this for as long as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post!

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