Daily Riches: Conflict and Ego (David Brooks and Barack Obama)

“Historically, we reserve special admiration for those who can quiet the self even in the heat of conflict. Abraham Lincoln was caught in the middle of a horrific civil war. It would have been natural for him to live with his instincts aflame — filled with indignation toward those who started the war, enmity toward those who killed his men and who would end up killing him. But his second inaugural is a masterpiece of rising above the natural urge toward animosity and instead adopting an elevated stance. [Today] the beheadings and the monstrous act of human incineration [committed by ISIS] are also insults designed to generate a visceral response … to make the rest of us feel powerless, at once undone by fear and addled by disgust. The natural and worst way to respond is with the soul inflamed. …If they chest-thump, we’ll chest-thump. If they kill, we’ll kill. This sort of strategy  … sucks us into their nihilistic status war…. The world is full of invisible young men yearning to feel significant, who’d love to shock the world and light folks on fire in an epic status contest with the reigning powers. The best way to respond is to quiet our disgust and quiet our instincts. It is to step out of their game. It is to reassert the primacy of our game.  …without that mission we’re just one more army in a contest of barbarism. Our acts are nothing but volleys in a status war.  …conflict inflames the ego, distorts it and degrades it. The people we admire break that chain. They quiet the self and step outside the status war. They focus on the larger mission.” David Brooks

“… for Lincoln, it was never a matter of abandoning conviction for the sake of expediency. Rather, it was a matter of maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas – that we must talk and reach for common understanding, precisely because all of us are imperfect and can never act with the certainty that God is on our side….” Barack Obama

“How the mighty have fallen!” 2 Samuel 1:19

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does ego sometimes get the best of you? in your marriage? your work? your politics?
  • Can you “step out” of the “status war” when there’s conflict?
  • How do you “quiet yourself” in times of great upheaval?

Abba, in conflict help me to quiet my reactive soul.

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: The Collective Arrogance of the Herd (Thomas Merton, Tim Keller, and Augustine of Hippo)

“There grows in me an immense dissatisfaction with all that is merely passively accepted as truth, without struggle and without examination. Faith, surely, is not passive, and not an evasion. And today, more than ever, the things we believe, I mean especially the things we accept on human faith – reported matters of ‘fact,’ questions of history, of policy, of interpretation, of wants – they should be very few. …I am still able to hope that a civil exchange of ideas can take place between two persons — that we have not yet reached the stage where we are all hermetically sealed, each one in the collective arrogance and despair of his own herd.” Thomas Merton

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body with no antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask the hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.” Timothy Keller

“Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”  Augustine

“…what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your faith make room for “doubt … only discarded after long reflection?” If you need to be able to explain everything, where does that come from?
  • Arrogance renders one ineffectual in reaching, correcting, learning from and loving others. No wonder the Lord wants us to “walk humbly” instead (“seeking the truth together”) when we disagree with others. Even though this is “required”, do you see it as a sign or weakness or compromise?
  • “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” As you’ve matured, does this resonate with you?

Abba, teach me humility before you and others.

For More: Raids on the Unspeakable by Thomas Merton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”