Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dumbing It Down

"You are so strong!" my friend texted.

"When you're dumb, you have to be strong," I thought.

My past life, rife with dumb choices and dumb ideals, had left me strong for sure, but empty, and neurotic, and abrasive at times.  And as I fought with my daughter to stop pushing away the people that care most about her, and I lectured my son about wanting better things for himself, I realized just what a pandemic strength has become.

Sure, someone could say it was me -- that I raised them, some of it would have to rub off.  But, look around.  How many strong people do you know?  It's bad ass to be bad ass.  Who can wear the blackest black?  Who can dish out the best dirt or shoot the sharpest barbs?  Who has been through the most crap with their ex-wife, or has the most kids in jail, and is thereby raising the most grandchildren.  Who gets the drunkest and acts the dumbest at the after work parties, or has the most scars/ piercings/ tattoos below the belt!?  We measure one another by just how dumb we can get!

I've known the truth of Jesus almost since I could talk.  I liked learning, and getting good grades, and NOT getting into trouble.  I liked making right choices and having great relationships with people in authority.  Until one day, dumb happened.  (Now in my case, dumb sprang forth from a bad case of fear, but that's a whole 'nother post.)  Suffice to say, someone much dumber than I came along and made me feel like smart and good and innocent were not socially where I needed to be.  And I, being polite and respectful and wildly insecure, listened to their dumbness.  The funny thing is, it only takes one dumb person to louse things up for an entire group.  Soon, I found plenty of dummies to tell me I needed to "loosen up" and "stop being such a goody-goody."  By the end if high school, I'd left all of my smart friends in the dust, and become effectually brainless -- cool, but brainless.  I could feel the acceptance replacing the intelligence with every Sunday morning I slept in.  Aloofness and arrogance kicked respectful and obedient to the curb each time I headed around the corner for a smoke.  Alcohol pilfered from Christmas Past washed away my chances of a bright future and raised a toast to complacency and mediocrity.  Dumb. 

I tried to get it together.  Now matter how far from smart I'd get, I knew dumb was just... well, dumb.  But the choice given me -- to be popular and desirable, or goody-goody and alone -- it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which has a higher face value. 

But then other choices came: act right, or get out; lose the boyfriend, or stay married; get out of town, or go to jail; get an abortion, or ruin everything; abused or homeless.  LOTS of choices.  Dumb.

The thing about dumb is, when you make a dumb choice, you usually decide to make another dumb choice to fix the one you made in the first place.  It's like dropping a pebble into a smooth, clear lake -- the ripples can go on forever.  And so they did.  I was almost forty by the time the dumb wore off, but the ripples?  They're still going -- not nearly as large or as frequent as they were years ago, but trust me, I still find myself bobbing along in them every so often.  Someone said you have to start small -- one right choice after another -- and work toward stopping the ripples.  In the meantime, you hang on!

And I'm sure that's where the strength comes in, but I would have been much better off if I'd just stayed smart.

Psalm 28:7a
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me."
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