Have you ever heard a “born-again” Christian refer to being “convicted”? I’ve spend some time thinking about that phrasing. So often it is taken to mean that Jesus, as judge and jury has taken someone into a court of law, and tried that person and found that person “guilty.” An unloving, uncharitable, hard-line image, to me.
Then I think a bit further. I observe in myself and those whom I come in contact with. I observe emotional reactions. Those things which bring out violent or visceral emotional reactions seem to me to fall into a couple of categories — and these probably dissolve into a single category. These reactions are generally associated with hurt or fear. I only experience hurt and/or fear when I am protecting something, it seems. That is, I react most strongly when I am not sure that my borders are not being breached. That could be protecting a child or a friend. Or it could be just protecting my own ego. I will fight to defend my child or sister/brother, mom, spouse or friend. True. But, I will fight even harder at times to protect my image of myself…
My strongest reaction by far is when someone touches a nerve and moves into that space that might cause me to have to change — or at least evaluate the need to change. Someone, be they friend or foe, makes an observation about me that really makes me angry… My response becomes: Unfair! You have no right! Why are you trying to hurt me! Get away! Leave me alone! You are SO wrong! And then I stop and reflect on my reaction. It is the strongest when I suspect that the observer might be right or might be on to some log in my own eye.
The other side of that coin is when I say something that causes the flash of anger in another person. I must evaluate what is happening: Am I being unjust or wrong? Or did I step into that place that perhaps they already see a problem? Am I doing it to hurt someone (and make myself look better) or did I simply state a truth that was received badly?
And so I reflect on what “conviction” means in the sense of that Christian I referenced in the first sentence. I look in the mirror of God and find that I am in drastic need of change — God/Jesus doesn’t convict me or sentence me. I see the reflection that tells me that this must change. I see Love in the mirror that tells me it can change. I see more Love in the mirror that tells me that I’ll not ride into that change alone.