The Intimidation Factor

humility

While dining with a ruler, pay attention to what is put before you.  If you are a big eater, put a knife to your throat; don’t desire all the delicacies, for he might be trying to trick you. Proverbs 23: 1-3

Have you ever met someone who comes across as a bit intimidating?  If you have, then you know you know it has the potential to knock you off balance.  This proverb is a warning to dining with ‘rulers’, or folks who have power, because they may have ulterior motives as to why they want to meet with you.  Basically, beware of being dazzled by their wealth or lavish food.  And no, the writer of this proverb isn’t suggesting that you actually put a knife to your throat.  That word picture has to do with – you guessed it – self-restraint.  In other words, keep your wits about you and remember not all that glitters is gold.

Let’s talk about what’s really going on here.  This is the time when you find yourself with someone who brings out that intimidation factor that can be found in all of us.  Now, sometimes, the person is intentionally intimidating for the purpose of compliance.  Think police or military in their uniform.  It’s fashioned that way for a reason ;).  And it works!

But that’s not the issue here.  The issue is when you find yourself with a person who is using intimidation to control you or have the upper hand.  There is something they want from you and one way to get that is for you to feel ‘smaller’.  It works, because we’ve all experienced it.  Let’s dig into this a little more.

For the person doing the intimidating, there is obviously a need to be in control, to communicate or show that they are greater, more powerful, richer, smarter, etc, then you.  However, the fact they need to do this says quite a bit about them.  The need to elevate would suggest to me that there are some inferiority issues at work here, and the only way to overcome that is to make you feel smaller.  Or perhaps they want something from you and they will go to any length to get it, and if intimidation works, they will employ that tactic.

But to be fair, I must consider the other side of the coin.  It’s true that sometimes I sabotage myself when it comes to meeting someone who, in my eyes is ‘more’ than I am.  I immediately feel and believe that I am ‘less than’, and in believing that, I have placed myself at a disadvantage.  That person may not have an intimidating bone in their body, but because of how I see myself, I therefore see them as intimidating.

So what’s the answer to all of this?  It comes down to how I really see myself?  The truth of the matter is that in God’s eyes, we are all created equal.  We are created equal because

It comes down to the application of wisdom.  If you’ve been reading the proverbs over the past three weeks, then you will notice that the wise person leads themselves.  Their desires, other people, and situations do not dictate how they live their lives.  The wise person has learned to walk humbly with their God. And in that statement, lies the answer.  Humility will always trump intimidation.  A humble person is aware, not only of their strengths, but also their weaknesses.  A humble person is not swayed or captivated by money, sex or power.  A humble person is aware that they were created in the image of God, and it’s to God that they owe their life.

A humble posture always triumphs over intimidation.

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Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall…

YourPerceptionOfMe

Proverbs 22…

The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.

True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life.

As I’ve been reading through each chapter of Proverbs, there is one nugget of wisdom that I bump into every now and then.  It goes something like this – There is a way that seems right to a person, but God examines the heart, or looks at the motive.  One of the meanings behind that is we may have moral actions, but God sees what your real motive is behind that.  Ouch!  I don’t know about you, but there are many times when I read something like that I don’t even consider for a second that that could be me.  Moi??  Never!  But yes…my motives are not necessarily the best.  For example…

For the past couple of months, a friend and I go out every Thursday afternoon to prayer-walk throughout a neighbourhood near our church.  About fifty percent of this neighbourhood is lower income, where people live in substandard housing.  Our desire is to interact with the people, not just walk through their ‘hood’.  So today, we purchased fruit, bagged it, and went knocking on doors to bless them with bags of fruit and if they were open, to pray for them.  We had some great encounters with people and that made my day.

We returned to the church after we were finished and spent some time praying.  It was then I had this sense that God had a question for me: “Why are you doing this?”  That was it, but I could tell that the question was more like, “So tell me, why are you REALLY doing this?  Is it because you’re a ‘pastor’ and it’s your job?  Or is it because you want to get more people in the church?  Or it’s one of your programs?  Tell me something…would you do it if you weren’t a pastor and the church you attended didn’t hand out bags of fruit?”  That’s what it sounded like to me.  And yes…I was busted!  So when I prayed, I asked God to help me have a heart that wants to do this simply because they are people just like me, and giving out a little bit of sunshine never hurt anybody.

You see, that’s the point about the two verses for today, all of creation, and especially humanity, is dependent on God to provide for us.  There’s nothing wrong with being rich, unless it causes you to see yourself as better than other people, including those living in subsidized housing, the panhandler at the intersection, or the homeless.  ALL of us are dependent on God for our needs.  There is no such thing as a ‘self-made person’.  Every human bears God’s image.  Every human being stands on level ground.  Every human being is loved by God.

So whether you’re rich or poor, or somewhere in between…and because all of us are dependent on God for the very air we breathe, let us live our lives with humble attitudes and generous hearts towards one another.  Let’s journey together through this life.

The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.     Proverbs 18: 17

I can say a hearty AMEN!, to this proverb. When I was a police officer I spent many a day sitting in court, and sitting through many a trial. I found trials quite intriguing. Trials follow a very specific and detailed process, while slow, actually allows the judge and/or jury to have a more rounded picture or what really occurred. It’s one thing to hear one side of the story, but it’s quite another thing when you hear the other side’s version. What you thought was the truth turns out to be a part of the truth – but not the whole truth. It’s when you hear the whole truth that you are able to come to a right conclusion…most of the time.

Now, in case you think that is all this proverb is about…allow me to unpack it for you. This proverb speaks to a much deeper issue, and that is what we think we understand/know about a situation, person, or what we think we observe, is generally not a full understanding.

Here’s the problem. How we view people, any given situation, or even what we observe, is not necessarily the true reality. Let’s take something that we have all observed. Have you noticed when the moon is close to the horizon that it appears much larger than usual? The natural tendency is to think that the moon must be so much closer to the earth – hence, why it looks bigger.

The truth of the matter is the Relative size hypothesis. Huh?? Simply put, objects in the vicinity of the horizon moon exhibit a fine detail that makes the moon appear larger (Wikipedia). Okay, to make sense of what I’m saying, it’s the same thing as the Ebbinghaus Illusion, where a circle appears larger when surrounded by smaller circles, than it does when surrounded by larger circles. Really? Well check this out.220px-Ebbinghaus_Illusion.svg

Bottom line, not everything is at it appears at first glance. And that goes with everything. So next time you’re itching to jump to a conclusion because, “I just call it as I see it!”, remember the Ebbinghaus Illusion.