I Am Humbled


Authors or not, we tend to write stories in our heads: editing, rehearsing, thinking up alternate endings, rearranging dialogue, dreaming up different plots and scenarios.

While we experience life as a patchwork of people, places and circumstances, our mind can give these things a broader context, organizing them into a narrative, making a story out of them. In writing our narrative, our adaptation of life, nobody sets out to write a fairy tale, but pride and ego inevitably elbow their way in—writing and rewriting the story, turning real events and real people into an extravagant work of fiction. Pride and ego have their own thoughts on how the story should develop. All roads lead to us as hero, and while we’re at it, why not the story’s omniscient narrator as well? Pride turns our mental diary into an infomercial: shameless self-promotion, propaganda for the ego.

I was just taking a shower and I always noodle on my story when I’m in the shower. I was editing a real life conversation I had a few days ago. The conversation, as it actually went down, could have never made it into the final manuscript of my story: my mind was dull and sluggish and I just wasn’t thinking well on my feet. So I was doing a little editing, trying to get the lines just right: the points I should have made, the way I should have answered, the perfect comeback I should have thought of but didn’t. I’m pretty happy with the dialogue now.

The voice of the narrator in any story can possess a Morgan Freeman like omniscience. The narrator is the only one who sees things as they truly are, the one who “gets it.” Everyone else in the story has a perspective of truth but the narrator defines it — you, as narrator, define your own story. You become the Judge and moral compass within the story. Who else but the narrator is qualified to evaluate the rightness and wrongness of people’s thoughts and actions? Who else could possibly speak with surety of another person’s motives?

Not only are we the narrator, we’re also the story’s protagonist—the leading man or woman. What this means is that all the action of the story revolves around us, much in the same way that Rambo is really a movie about Sylvester Stallone and not some war vet. Other characters are defined by their relationship to the protagonist (to us) and when they’re not in the scene, it can be safely assumed they continue to think and talk about us: things we said and did, classic sayings and exploits.

Most mental biographies lack a backstory. We’re like James Bond coming directly from the womb with our skills and abilities fully formed—gun in one hand, garter in the other—and no explanation seems necessary or is ever posited as to how we acquired our omniscient insight, charm and talent. We just have them. They are just there. Our skills and abilities are truly our own, we are self-made men and self-made women.

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This is the way sin distorts our story. This is how egomaniacs, narcissists and arrogant dictators are created; through the perversion of their mental narrative. Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to be God or believes that they are somehow intrinsically God. No, you keep a mental diary of life like everyone keeps a mental diary of life, and that diary becomes a story, and you become the story’s narrator and the story’s protagonist, pride corrupts the plot, the story turns into self-aggrandizing propaganda, the propaganda deceives and converts us, we believe the propaganda, we are the propaganda, we don’t know who we are. But other people do know who we are: we’re the self-centered SOB who thinks the world revolves around them.

Humility’s journey is a backtrack: retracing our footsteps back from the ledge over which pride fell. And that journey begins with the simple admission that we’ve been secretly writing such fiction. Stepping back further, we acknowledge just how fictional, how fabricated, how self-serving and distorted our version of reality was; we recant of having written it, thought it, and believed it. Retreating further—back to the source—we repent of the pride that authored such a subversive little tome. Arriving back at the beginning, we confess and apologize to God for not only writing such lies but believing them. Then, we toss the book in the fire and let the flames turn it into a psalm, a sacrifice of repentance.

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