I distinctly remember what I ate for supper on Christmas Eve 50 years ago. Not the entrée perhaps, but certainly the vegetable. My mother served stewed potatoes (“potato slopters,” as she dubbed them).
I remember because I was passionately reading my newly purchased 25-cent comic book (“Justice League of America” Vol. 1 #96, featuring the JLA versus Starbreaker the Cosmic Vampire) at the dining room table and splashed the food all over it.
That damaged comic book still has a place of honor in my old bedroom. And it serves as a metaphor for the extreme ways some people regard themselves in relation to the one who is the Reason for the Season.
Back in 1971 I could’ve had a perfectionist meltdown and discarded the comic book as a soiled, worthless piece of garbage. I recognized that I had defaced the periodical, but I nonetheless saw the enduring non-monetary worth of it. It remained perfectly readable. It retains sentimental value. And its continued existence means it can be passed on to future generations.
What does that have to do with self-image? Well, many people feel particularly useless, helpless and unloved at this time of year. Whether it’s because of family reputation, poverty, chronic illness, an ugly divorce, substance abuse or some other calamity, some folks view themselves as irredeemable – permanently stained and hopeless. They see their only alternatives as either more self-pity or a “George Bailey” suicide attempt.
Christians have an obligation to remind these people that God has always utilized flawed individuals to accomplish great tasks and that Jesus felt compassion for the poor, afflicted and outcast. He dined with tax collectors and sinners. Instead of memorizing sad songs, those with low self-esteem should restore their dignity by memorizing John 3:16.
On the other hand, for the past five decades I could have lied to myself about my comic book. I could try to bluff and bully a collector into accepting it as in “mint” condition, but my delusions would not change reality.
That’s my way of leading into this indisputable truth: some people have an inflated view of their value to God and man. “Humility” and “reverence” are not in their lexicon. They consider themselves to be self-sufficient, entitled and answerable to no man or deity.
If they stumble upon Jesus amid the snowmen and candy canes, they pigeonhole Him as (a) a myth, (b) a good teacher but nothing else or (c) “OK, maybe the Son of God, but I’ve got a lot of wild oats to sow before I’ll have time to settle down and follow Him.”
I don’t find the phrase “Cruisin’ for a bruisin’” in the Bible, but the sentiment fits such people. Certainly, I pray for world peace this Christmas. I pray for health and happiness for friends and family. But I also pray that those on the extremes of self-image will learn some moderation. Neither arrogance nor despair are in the best interests of mankind.
Life is a balancing act. I take it by faith that humans are made in the image of God. But imperfections, interdependence and responsibility must all be considered. Surprisingly few of life’s problems can be solved with a “POW!,” “BAM!” or “ZAP!” Ah, but by developing a realistic assessment of your potential and your obligations, you can move mountains. Go tell it on the mountain.
Copyright 2021 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”