Cultural Observation: Demoralized Language

“Public language has also become demoralized. Google ngrams measure word usage across media. Google scans the contents of books and publications going back decades. You can type in a word and see, over the years, which words have been used more frequently and which less frequently. Over the past few decades there has been a sharp rise in the usage of individualist words and phrases like “self” and “personalized,” “I come first” and “I can do it myself,” and a sharp decline in community words like “community,” “share,” “united,” and “common good.” The use of words having to do with economics and business has increased, while the language of morality and character building is in decline. Usage of words like “character,” “conscience,” and “virtue” all declined over the course of the twentieth century.26Usage of the word “bravery” has declined by 66 percent over the course of the twentieth century. “Gratitude” is down 49 percent. “Humbleness” is down 52 percent and “kindness” is down 56 percent.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

Tactfulness

“As president, [Dwight Eisenhower] was perfectly willing to appear stupider than he really was if it would help him perform his assigned role. He was willing to appear tongue-tied if it would help him conceal his true designs. Just as he learned to suppress his anger as a boy, he learned to suppress his ambitions and abilities as an adult. He was reasonably learned in ancient history, admiring especially the crafty Athenian leader Themistocles, but he never let that on. He did not want to appear smarter than other people, or somehow superior to the average American. Instead he cultivated the image of simple, unlearned charm.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

Pride vs. Humility

“There was something aesthetically beautiful about the self-effacement the people on that program displayed. The self-effacing person is soothing and gracious, while the self-promoting person is fragile and jarring. Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time, but egotism is a ravenous hunger in a small space—self-concerned, competitive, and distinction-hungry. Humility is infused with lovely emotions like admiration, companionship, and gratitude. “Thankfulness,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, said, “is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.”” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

Cultural Observation: Pride

“I arrived home before the program [Command Performance] was over and listened to that radio show in my driveway for a time. Then I went inside and turned on a football game. A quarterback threw a short pass to a wide receiver, who was tackled almost immediately for a two-yard gain. The defensive player did what all professional athletes do these days in moments of personal accomplishment. He did a self-puffing victory dance, as the camera lingered. It occurred to me that I had just watched more self-celebration after a two-yard gain than I had heard after the United States won World War II. This little contrast set off a chain of thoughts in my mind. It occurred to me that this shift might symbolize a shift in culture, a shift from a culture of self-effacement that says “Nobody’s better than me, but I’m no better than anyone else” to a culture of self-promotion that says “Recognize my accomplishments, I’m pretty special.” That contrast, while nothing much in itself, was like a doorway into the different ways it is possible to live in this world.” -David Brooks, The Road to Character

Reconciliation in the Shadow of the Cross

Reconciliation needs to happen in the shadow of the cross. Because one subtle threat to reconciliation is that I may ‘take this person back’ into my life, but only as someone I now deem to be inferior to me. I’ll take them back on my agenda, not God’s. At the cross, I realize how problematic it is: my sins caused monstrous harm to someone too–they caused the death of the Son of God. At the cross I see my sin, but also the goal of the Gospel which is that my brother with whom I am angry would have an “equal share” in the inheritance of the kingdom (Col. 1:12-14).