Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Playing Whac-A-Mole? - A discussion of Personal Demons

Have you ever played Whac-A-Mole? For those less refined, I’ll describe it. You hold a padded mallet in your hand…there is a board in front of you with several holes in the top…randomly, and with increasing speed, a little mole sticks his head out of one of the holes…it is your job to whack it before it drops back into the darkness of the machine. If you are looking to expand your human experience, you can find this troublesome game at amusement parks and traveling carnivals.

I think that game is a pretty good illustration of what it is like for a person to battle his or her personal demons…all alone.

We all have them. Generally, we do our best to hide them; these personal demons. But, sometimes they pop out of no where and play havoc with our self-esteem, our spiritual self-worth, and sometimes with our public reputation, our professional careers, and our relationships. There are plenty of illustrations in the news these days.

What are they?

They are those sinful things that we are prone to do, despite our better intellectual and spiritual judgment, and of which we are too embarrassed to admit to others that they still exist in our lives.  We don't want to do them.  We hate them.  We still fall prey to their sneak attacks.

They can appear as a dichotomy against our public, spiritual persona. When revealed against our will they cause others to cry “Hypocrite!” However, does this dichotomy really equal hypocrisy? Probably, sometimes yes. Often, and perhaps usually, NO.

Hypocrisy on one level is simply saying one thing and doing the opposite, but in a deeper sense, it is INTENTIONALLY doing WITHOUT REMORSE those things that are in opposition to your publicly stated beliefs and convictions. Generally, when one falls prey to the hidden personal demons, they are in fact racked with remorse. Intellectually, they know it is wrong, but they are carried away by a temptation, and hate the fact that it has any power in their life. Eventually, they feel powerless and trapped.

The Apostle Paul stated it this way:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate…I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:14-20

“…the evil I do NOT want to do—this I keep on doing.”

The personal demon!

As I said, we ALL have them. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t. I won’t believe you. It doesn’t make you less of a person to admit they are there. If you are willing to admit them though, it will make you wiser than the foolish person who continues to deny their existence.

We have two problems in “whacking” these demons: 1. we are self-deceived into believing we are the only ones with the problem, 2. we place our leaders on insulated pedestals where they feel so obligated to present a perfect example that they feel like they cannot disclose any personal flaw.

Are you the only one? 1 Corinthians 10:13

"No tempation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."

Paul…the man who kept doing what he didn’t want to do…says that “no temptation has seized you except what is COMMON TO MAN.”

You are NOT the only one…regardless the problem. Drink too much? So do others. Does pornography snag you? There are plenty of others. Got a mean temper? Lots of company. You name it, and you can find others with a similar issue.

What about the leaders on the pedestal?

First off, they need to come off the pedestal. They are just men and women like you and I. Worship God, and Him alone. Secondly, they need to have a safe place to be open with their lives…because they have the demons too. Look at King David. Look at Abraham. Paul had his “thorn in the side.” (It is my opinion at the moment that Paul’s “thorn in the side” was a spiritual weakness or sin that he could not beat. God left it as a struggle for him so that he would not become spiritually conceited.)

So, you may ask, how do we deal with these personal demons? Well, I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t have my own to battle anymore. However, I do offer the following suggestions:

A. There’s safety in numbers. Join with one or two other people in the struggle to beat these things. I’m calling this a “Micro” ministry. (I wish I could claim this description, but I borrowed it from a ministry in Chicago called Godgrown. See ). I was able to experience this as a young Christian, and there is something truly special about being able to be completely honest with someone else. It lifts the burden and frees the soul.

B. Flip on the light. Don’t hide it in the darkness. It will only fester there, and in the mean time you are giving off a false impression that can lead to the claim of hypocrisy. Cockroaches breed in the darkness. Sin committed in secrecy will breed a lifestyle that spirals into destruction. You can break that cycle by simply turning the light of honesty on in your life.

In short, be honest about the fact that you have weaknesses (personal demons), and find one or two people with whom you can be brutally truthful. Don’t play Whac-a-demon all alone in the corner, but hand a couple of mallets to your friends and get some help!

There is hope after all. Romans 8:1-2

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Now, where’s that light switch?

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