Fool Taboo

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Fence from a hike. Reminds me of the topic, “taboo”.

Growing up in the 1970’s, I remember being taught that you could not call someone “fool” because you would be sent to hell. See Matthew 5:22.  So this is something that I carefully avoided.  Another cautionary tale was that you could not “judge or you will be judged”.  The interpretation of this scripture (found in Matthew 7:1) was that I could not correct or advise other people because I would be judging them. The unfortunate fall out for me was that I thought making sound judgments, about what was right or wrong, was off limits. I became isolated and muted in group discussions where someone was trying to make a decision.  I felt confident that I could choose for me, but that what you or others do “is none of my business”.

I believe that each individual is given the responsibility to choose their own thoughts, behaviors, words and actions. And I believe offering feedback to someone who is not asking for your opinion has the risk of being intrusive.  However, when I have an opportunity to suggest a better course of action should I be quiet or speak up? When I am dealing with a person who is hurting me or a minor child should I just let him/ her do that without saying a word because how he is behaving is “none of my business”?

Enter one of my best teachers, Dr. Jim Wilder. Dr. Wilder is a retired, trained mental health therapist like me (his discipline is Psychology and mine is Social Work).  Wilder has worked with people who have experienced severe trauma and I share that work with him. He also has a seminary degree from Fuller University.  Here’s a link to biographical information about Dr. Wilder Wilder bio. His work now teaches people to live in a brain-healthy way.

Dr. Wilder’s teaching series on “Fools” has been so helpful to me.  I’ve posted a link to the resource at the end of this article. The Bible compares and contrasts foolish people with wise people in many of its books: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the gospels and Ephesians to name a few.  Fools are people who do things that tear down life in themselves and others.  Their words and actions are destructive and not good for life, often wasting good resources that are given to them. However, fools think that the way they live is the “good life”. Wise people do things that are good for life for themselves and others.  Wise people build up, encourage and speak truth to themselves and others. Wise people consider the impact of their actions on themselves, other people and the surroundings before acting.

The Matthew 5:22 instruction that calling someone a fool puts you in danger of hell was given by Jesus. In Matthew 23:17, Jesus calls the religious teachers of the law, “you blind fools”.  So, why would Jesus prohibit calling someone a fool and then do it?

When you call someone a fool (“Raca” is the Greek word in Matthew 5:22), you are calling him a worthless person.  Calling someone a worthless human being is insulting the dignity of a person made in God’s image. People are of great value to God, so calling them “worthless scum” is wrong.  In the Matthew 23 example when Jesus called the leaders, “blind fools”, he was warning them that what they were doing was foolish and causing destruction to others. Check out what Jesus said to the teachers in Matthew 23. He lists many destructive behaviors that are deadly to emotional and spiritual health.

The difference between the two passages lies in whether you are calling someone a worthless human being or are warning the person that their actions are stealing, destroying or wasting life. The warning says, “Hey, what you are doing here is not good for life,” and calls the person to consider wise actions instead. Going back to the judgment verse: I am charged with considering options and making a wise decision. Judging another person to condemn her as beyond help and worthless goes against God’s redeeming work in the world.

Interestingly, when you venture to tell someone, “Hey, wait…what you are doing is not good for life,” the subject of, “Who is the fool in this scenario?” has been raised. So a point of judgment has arrived: who is wise and who is foolish?  A wise person will stop and consider what you have to say and will correct their foolish behavior or at least stop the behavior while they consider what you said.  A foolish person will tell you that you are the fool in a way to insult you and will not heed the warning. See Proverbs 9:7-10

Wise people can have some foolish moments (think King David).  Foolish people can have a few wise moments (think King Saul). My challenge to you and to myself is to be on the look-out for foolish behavior in the self and in others.  And for you and I to be willing to say what behaviors are destructive and which behaviors would be life-giving.

Here’s the link to the audio teaching: Munchies. Vol. 2 Fools 

Brain Science and Addictions

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Last weekend my husband, Doug, and I attended the official opening of Bridges of Hope, a drug addiction treatment center in Anderson, IN.  I was expecting an open house tour of the new facility.  But, I arrived in time to hear the Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb and other dignitaries speak at the opening ceremony. I didn’t know the governor would attend. Another surprise of the day for me was the catered lunch.  Yum!

Here’s a link to The Herald Bulletin’s article about the event. Bridges of Hope Opening

Here’s a link to Bridges of Hope’s website. Bridges of Hope

I have an interest in this place for 2 reasons: 1. I’m a mental health therapist and am glad to welcome this treatment facility to my community.  2. Bridges of Hope bought my home church’s former office building.  The building looked wonderful and the remodel will serve the new agency and its clients well.

A friend and I were chatting at the event and she asked me about brain science and addiction.  One of the speakers had mentioned research that concluded that if an addicted brain can be drug free for 2 years, the brain can heal and build new neural pathways to replace damage that was done by drugs.  Amazing!  One of the goals of Bridges of Hope is to connect clients to healthy ways of living during treatment and after treatment. And within that goal, to make sure graduates get connected to healthy recovery activity in the community so they can continue to live a healthy lifestyle and allow the brain to heal.

I told my friend about the part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.  Some therapists call this the “attachment light”.  This part of the brain “lights up” when the need to connect/ relate to other human beings activates.  What is good for the brain is to interact, face-to-face, with other human beings, especially if both people are glad to be together (joy) or if both are feeling peaceful and calm in each other’s presence.  Unfortunately, addictions can hijack the nucleus accumbens. Drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping–any behavior that can be addictive–will partially satisfy the desire to relate to other people, but will not actually give the brain what is needed.  So, the “attachment light” gets turned off, but not satisfied. The addicted person continues to use the substance when connection with (safe enough, not perfect) people is what is needed. The person is starving for emotional connection. The body becomes physically addicted to the substance and this cements the addictive cycle. (I understand that this is a simplified explanation of a large subject).

One of the reasons Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery 12 step programs are so effective is that the honest, face-to-face connection with other human beings starts to address the long-neglected need to connect with other human beings.

In the great commandment, Jesus told people that the 2 most important moral codes to follow are to 1. Love God and 2. Love others.

 

Mark 12:28-31 (New Living Translation)

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] No other commandment is greater than these.”

I just love that this second commandment to love others as yourself actually has a physical benefit for the person following it because the nucleus accumbens is then satisfied in a healthy way.

Daniel Siegel’s The Developing Mind is a good way to learn more about the brain. Thanks to my friend, Diane, for asking the question.  Do you have any mental health questions you would like to hear my opinion about in future blog posts?  If so, please leave a comment.

Sincerely,      April Linville, MSW, LCSW