Tear me down, Lord!

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 29, 2014

If I must reduce my New Year’s resolutions to just one, I guess it would be to do a better job of pointing to Christ without blocking the view. Every one of us has personality characteristics which, despite our best intentions, tend to shout “look at me!” instead of “look at Christ!” Growth in holiness requires that we learn to know ourselves well enough to counteract these tendencies.

For a self-consciously orthodox Catholic like myself, the personality type is often that of a congenital upstream swimmer, one who enjoys the intellectual “distinction” of being “not like other men” (Lk 18:11). Call this the “dogmatic personality”. The problem is that we dogmatists tend to be dogmatic about far more than dogma. We also know the “right” liturgy, the “right” spiritual authors, the “right” penitential practices, the “right” interpretation of every obscure passage in Scripture, the “right” spiritual guidance for every soul, the “right” way to run the Church, and even the “right” political policies.

Moreover, we can see clearly that most questions are really attacks; most doubts represent a secret denial of the Faith; and our opponents typically have bad motives. Very frequently we do not know how we know. Very likely we have not even studied the question at hand. But, in God’s name, we know that we know.

Unfortunately, each time my dogmatic personality stretches “orthodoxy” in such impermissible ways, I might as well be shouting: “See, I am lifted up, and I draw all men to myself” (cf., Jn 12:32).

Oh, yes. Been there. Done that.

The reality is that when we attribute to ourselves what can only properly be attributed to God, we block the view. People cannot see past us to the Lord and Savior we claim to represent. Do we realize that this is a kind of blasphemy?

Of course, I am not implying that only dogmatic personalities are prone to make better walls than windows. The same is true of every personality type, as each has its own weaknesses. We are all victims of the Fall, all subject to Satan’s snares. Certainly those who typically go along to get along, not realizing how much their values are influenced by the surrounding culture, constantly interpose themselves between others and an authentic vision of Christ.

This is obvious to me, but of course I would rather be shot than do that. It is exactly why I take great pride in rising above the crowd. I relish being a bulwark against error. I have a deep and genuine affection for my own personal rectitude.

To put the matter clearly, I am already a great wall. I bring fine instincts and immense natural ability to the job.

So tear me down, Lord. In 2015, make me a window.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Lahrye - Jan. 01, 2015 9:07 PM ET USA

    As an annual subscriberI appreciate your message. I to have that window to deal with. It is always good for me to be reminded of my egotism. And hope myself to become 'the servant' instead of being the receiver! I am anxious to begin this new year starting with the right foot forward.

  • Posted by: jlw5094538 - Dec. 30, 2014 6:09 PM ET USA

    This is a jewel of an article. If I were into tats, there are parts of it I would tattoo on my right hand and on my left: so I would be well and duly warned every time I lay my fingers on the keyboard. Thank you, Jeff. Best wishes for your demolition as a wall and rehab as a window, from one who needs the remodeling more than most.

  • Posted by: charles.pullin6847 - Dec. 29, 2014 9:11 PM ET USA

    Through your window, Dr. Mirus, I see myself in your mirror...thank you for the reminder to break down my own walls of rectitude. This article convinced me to finally make a donation in support of this site, which I have enjoyed for many months. May you and all the contributors have a Merry Christmas and a life filled with epiphanies.

  • Posted by: timothy.op - Dec. 29, 2014 6:01 PM ET USA

    You guys need a 'like' button for each of your articles.