As we continue to hurl insults and political mud at each other. And as we make snap judgements on what our opponents’ motivations are, my mind goes back to a Sunday morning …
We had small televisions and three channels when I was a kid. Sunday mornings were always filled with the worst programming of the week. Overly dramatic TV preachers and amateur church programs peppered the airwaves.
I don’t know why we always kept it on in the background, while getting ready for church …but we did.
I was eating cereal and zoning out on the couch (I was probably around fourteen or so). Jimmy Swaggart was wafting through the air, railing against whore mongers and sexual deviants. As a fourteen-year-old boy, I was silently checking all the boxes in my head (“me, me, me …and me. I am going to hell!)
Suddenly, my mother came walking through the room. And without missing a beat, she quipped, “THAT man has a problem.” This was serious scoop! I needed more info. So, I put down the cereal bowl and inquired further, “what do you mean, mom? What problem?”
She stopped, turned around and taught me a lesson (in one power-packed sentence) I have never forgotten. “When someone preaches about something too much, they’re preaching to THEMSELVES.”
Mom always had a way of bottom-lining it.
Years later, my mother’s intuition was proven correct. And Mr Swaggart was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that this was his main vice. And all those times I thought he was railing against my raging hormones, he was actually railing against his own “issues.” Moms know stuff.
Throughout my life, I have silently watched people. As a writer, it’s the biggest part of my job. For me to find any human truth I have to be an observer of humanity. And I have to make those observations without judgement.
But my mother’s keen sense of psychology has proven to be true over and over again. When I hear someone assign motivations to someone else, my curiosity always piques. Mainly because I’ve found that rule of thumb to be true for me as well.
I’ve written about mercy all of my adult life. And I’ve found that it’s probably because I have such a hard time showing it. And that I SO need it …all the time.
I’m obsessed with writing about unconditional love. I’m pretty sure that obsession is me working through the complication of having been a child performer …where love is almost always attached to performance.
And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I have been placed in the special needs community because of my life-long elitism. I NOW preach about everyone being equal in their gifts …because there was a time when I didn’t really believe that.
For me, the list goes on and on. I have NO right to judge anyone. But they leave clues. We all do …
If you talk about race ALL THE TIME, you might find that you, yourself have a problem with it. If your soap box is social justice, you might just find that you’re masking some guilt in that regard. If you’re constantly calling people “idiots” and “stupid” it’s probably a defense mechanism for hiding your own feelings of intellectual inadequacy.
I’m fascinated by conspiracy theories because I’m not really interested in conspiring against anyone or anything. But I’ve been the subject of huge, elaborate conspiracy theories; theories that threatened huge, international companies. NONE of them were ever true. But whenever I read them I instantly wondered if the people coming up with them weren’t simply telling on themselves about how THEY might operate …given the chance. I guess you could say, conspiracy theories are most likely formed by people most prone to be a part of one.
The biggest and most damning “tell” of all is when people assign motivations of greed to rich people. “He’s doing it so he can make more money” is the standard line, when judging a rich person. Usually, that greed is something the person doing the judging is wrestling with, themselves. Some rich people are greedy. Some are not. Some poor people are greedy. Some are not.
Assigning the motivation …let’s us know YOURS.
Human nature is what it is. We all run from danger because we are programmed toward self-interest and survival. We buy sale items because we want to save money …hence surviving another day. We move to better neighborhoods so our children will be safe. Again …self-interest and survival. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all get that. But the assignment of dark motivation is often a window into someone’s own dark point of view.
My dad used to say, “when someone tells you who they are …believe them the first time.” And you can learn a lot about who someone is just by listening to what riles them up or what makes them raise their voice …or what makes them post IN ALL CAPS. Chances are that very thing is lurking deep down in their own soul.
Jimmy Swaggart taught me that in a sermon …he didn’t even know he was preaching.