It’s Lent and at my church we’re reading the psalms during worship in a contemplative style (if you’ve heard of the Taize community, you’ll get the feeling). Anyway, the Ash Wednesday psalm was 51 and verse 6 struck me this morning (I’m reading them at home, too). It says of God “You desire truth in the inward being” and there’s a footnote for that line that says “meaning of Hebrew uncertain”. I love that because in general it’s not a bad idea to approach all our attempts at interpreting biblical texts with humility lest our certainty turn us into righteously good people – yuck. Anyway, I have been feeling a lot of uncertainty about my own “inward being” lately and so my Lenten focus, my constant prayer theme, is about the way I am with others when I feel a bit insecure, which sadly for me, is in almost all of my interactions. My “inward being” is always doing the spiritual equivalent of checking my look in the mirror. My inward and unconscious monologue is about how I’m stacking up with others, am I better or worse looking, am I smarter or dumber, am I fatter or thinner, am I a better parent or worse, is my foundation better than yours, and on and on. And so when I open my big old mouth to speak, it is mostly about self-justification disguised as casual conversation or interest in what’s going on with you. There is no truth in my inward being at all because I pretend to myself that I am not doing this thing I just described to you. This is so very mimetic theory, of course, because it illustrates how our very selves are dependent on feedback from other people, which is just the nature of being human. But when we work like crazy to cultivate the feedback we so desperately need, all truth is undermined. I am not myself when I am trying to project an image I think you will approve of, because I so desperately need that approval. Unless my self is just a jiggly mess of neediness, and I want to be more than that. But when my neediness is running the show, I treat other people like props in my self-esteem game, which is just horrid. I hate being like that. So I made this connection to something James Alison writes about all the time, which is that there is joy in being wrong. He says that the way to be honest in relationships is to not be so afraid of occupying the space of being the worse looking, the dumber one, the fat one, the bad parent and so on. If you’re not afraid to be there you won’t work so hard not to be there and your inward being might relax a bit and become someone nicer to be around. I’m going to try to do this during Lent, and I don’t expect a whole lot of success since I will be trying to change a lifetime of habitual uncertainty in my inward being. But nothing ventured, right?