On more than one occasion, I find myself angered by the nasty stuff people say and do. It doesn’t matter whether it’s friends, acquaintances or strangers – people inevitably disappoint. When that happens, I fill up my private journal with all sorts of creative invective. I tell people what I think of them. Then I close my book so that no eyes but my own ever see the penned firestorm that I rain down upon the stinkers who try to ruin the good aroma of my life.
Should my fierce torrent remain for my eyes only? A kind of vent therapy that gives me a healthy release and prevents me from ruining all my relationships? Probably, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Is there any benefit to dropping the verbal hammer on someone who deserves it?
Humans in general, and Christians in particular, recognize that love is the overarching quality to emulate. It’s the better path, but I’m also beginning to question the wisdom of reducing one’s belief system to a single maxim or Bible verse.
I’m not sure the perplexities of life we’re meant to be navigated using such a singularly focused map. As life unravels before us, there will always be complexities and exceptions and exigencies. There will be scenarios not-withstanding and situations that require creative and unorthodox solutions. It’s good to have a rule or two that guide your life, love is the best one in my estimation, but it is unhealthy and unwise to box life in with unyielding and inflexible constraints. If you are a football coach and have only one play in your playbook, you will lose the game. One play is not enough to be successful in life either.
Surely this must be what Ecclesiastes’s writer was driving at when he captures the full spectrum of life in stunning poetic fashion.
- A right time for birth and another for death,
- A right time to plant and another to reap,
- A right time to kill and another to heal,
- A right time to destroy and another to construct,
- A right time to cry and another to laugh,
- A right time to lament and another to cheer,
- A right time to make love and another to abstain,
- A right time to embrace and another to part,
- A right time to search and another to count your losses,
- A right time to hold on and another to let go,
- A right time to rip out and another to mend,
- A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
- A right time to love and another to hate,
- A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
Occasionally, some action might feel right to us in our gut, but yet it doesn’t fit within the carefully constructed guard-rails of our belief systems. This will make us feel uneasy. Like we are dangling on the edge of a dangerous precipice. If we go through with it, are we turning our back on our very selves?
Maybe, but maybe not.
- There will be a right time to conclude, as Bonhoeffer did, that certain people are not worthy of the truth.
- There will be a right time to fight back.
- There will be a right time to ignore, abandon, threaten, scare, or hurt someone.
- To the wayward child, absentee father, or derelict, there will be a right time to say, “there will be no more help for you.”
- There will be a right time to sue, a right time to evict, and a right time to divorce.
- There will be a right time to say good riddance.
When life is lived with all options on the table, it becomes a challenge to discern when a specific action might be right and when it will be wrong. Most of us, especially the religious among us, feel uneasy in a world of more malleable morality. I understand and share the discomfort.
Some will try to steer the straying flock back to the path of love, by saying things like “hurting that person was the most loving thing you could do for them” or “that’s tough love,” But I don’t buy it. Many of these actions don’t fit within the rubric of overarching love, no matter what we say.
Maybe it’s time to stop trying. Sometimes the right thing to do doesn’t have much to do with love. But that’s going to have to be ok. That’s life.
Where does this leave me with my poison pen? Is it the right time to put the cap on loves pen and sharpen my instrument of communication to kick some ass? Well, more than likely, despite all the musings above, these written outbursts will remain private, maybe because I’m a chicken, perhaps because I prefer peace over war, maybe because my written violence is actually wrong, and deep down, I know it. But I will say this; I’m a lot more open to a broader range of responses to life’s challenges than I ever have been before.