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Reflection: Do the Right Thing

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I think most of us think ourselves wise.

We all have good intentions.

What happens, though, when we allow ourselves to become unaccountable?

What does it look like when we decide our own understanding is enough?

What happens when our role models encourage us to just do what we want?

In Proverbs 1:10-11, in advice to his children to stay out of trouble, Solomon says

10 My child, when sinners tempt you, don't give in. 11 Suppose they say, “Come on; let's find someone to kill! Let's attack some innocent people for the fun of it!

Then the anthropormphized spirit of wisdom asks this question:

22 “Foolish people! How long do you want to be foolish? How long will you enjoy making fun of knowledge? Will you never learn?

Schemers laugh at moral wisdom.

Fools mock common knowledge.

Both think they know how to beat the system.

Both are tragically deceived.

We all make mistakes. And in our youth we tend to make more of them. We are fervor without perspective, hormones without accountability.

How much, though, are we really growing up?

The spirit of the age, in many people well beyond adolescence, is unchecked rage.

We are mad all the time, at everyone, about everything.

We are suckers for digital manipulation. We believe the worst about our neighbor, particularly the ones who differ from us in one way of another. The notion that your political enemies are all pedophiles (and your friends aren’t) is a hackneyed cliché that for some never gets old.

Meanwhile, charismatic leaders arise everywhere encouraging people to cast off restraint and unshackle themselves from the boring confines of decency.

You want to say those words?

You want to mock that person who bugs you?

You want to punch that guy in the face?

You want to push that kid down a flight of stairs?

Do it.

And laying aside that all of these choices may have immediate, unpleasant consequences, the charismatic leader, who will not experience the consequences, and will tell their disappointed followers that’s not what they meant, stirs the grievances of the frustrated. And with hats, and flags, stickers, and slogans, they will draw frustrated people to their side to identify with a cause that may provide a sense of identity, progress, and power.

But this idea of casting off restraint is the precise description of the person with no vision, no guidance, and no understanding. Proverbs 29:18 (NIV) says: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”

When we choose to forgo accountability, we have the freedom both to innovate and deviate. The schemer and the fool both remind us that the latter may be more likely than the former. And the charismatic leader counts on it.

We all like to think ourselves impervious to deception, incapable of joining a destructive movement.

History shows, however, that we are not.

And history repeats itself, in broad daylight, every single day.

Sadly, ugly is not something we just outgrow.

So let us beware the invitation to do someone harm, even where we feel they deserve it.

And let us interrogate our own tendency to dismiss conventional wisdom, or common knowledge in favor of an enticing shortcut.

Let us innovate, but not mistake manipulation for innovation.

Sometimes a long path avoids destruction.

Sometimes the road is hard for a reason.

(Photo Credit: Rocketmann Team)

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