I have a lot of fight stories from when I was a teenager. I went to rough schools that held scrapping as a prerequisite to coolness. Being thought of as tough was about the best compliment you could receive. I was thought of as tough. I coveted this title. I needed it for self-esteem. Fight stories were the best. As long as you came out on top, the guys would sit around, listen to you, and appreciate your stature. However, if you lost a fight, those were the stories that you hid away in your back pocket. Why? Because you did not want the guys to see your weaknesses.
In my case, there was one story that was the mother of all stories. Over the years, I told this particular story more than any other. The guys would gather around and say, “Michael, tell us the gang fight story again.” I loved to tell it. I loved how it made me feel. I was seventeen years old. I was out with friends, running the town, drinking as much beer as we could hold. The night would never be satisfied unless we found some girls to conquer or some guys to beat up. This night we were on our way to accomplishing both goals. With our gals in the car, we were driving to a party when some car cut us off. Who did they think they were? So we chased them down. When we came to a stop light, I thought I would impress everyone by chasing down the car on foot and demanding that its inhabitants get out of their car and settle the score. However, while I was out of the car, the light turned green. They squealed their tires and left the potential crime scene before I could get to them. My friends chased after them, leaving me alone on the corner. I decided to walk to the gas station about twenty yards away. While walking through the parking lot, out of the dark came six guys who looked like a gang of thugs. They surrounded me. “Give me your wallet,” was their demand. I, in my drunken, adrenaline-filled stupidity, immediately responded, “No. You give me yours.” The next thing I knew, my ears were ringing from the right cross someone inflicted. Continuing in my ego-driven machismo, I began to dance around in my normal fight posture. I slugged one and danced around the punches of another. It was one on six and, somehow, I was winning. This lasted for another two or three minutes, until thankfully, my band of brothers showed back up and dove out of the car to come to my aid. After about five more minutes of headlocks, right crosses, and bloody noses, the gang ran, knowing they were not as cool as they had thought ten minutes before.
For years, I loved the look of amazement in everyone’s eyes as I took every opportunity to recount this victorious battle. I was a warrior. I was a hero. I was someone with whom you did not want to mess. However, this is not the whole story. It probably took ten years before I was able to come clean with my friends about what happened behind the scenes that night. It was not cool. It was not heroic. It was not an exploit of “the most interesting man in the world.” You see, everything I told you was true. I did fight six guys by myself. I was winning. And we did run them all off. However, what I failed to mention was that while fighting these guys, I peed and crapped my pants. I just could not help myself. I really was letting it all out that night! I don’t know how or why, but by the time the fight was over, I had more than just a bloody nose to worry about.
I almost got caught; as we were driving off, someone said, “What is that smell?” However, I covered my tracks and blamed it on the drunk girl passed out in the back seat. I said it was her puke. Everyone bought it. Image retained.
Nowadays, when my friends and I tell this story, it is only to tell about how I let it all loose that night. What used to be a story about my pride has become just about the funniest story we have in our “good ol’ days” arsenal. And you know what? I don’t mind. I actually enjoy telling that part of the story better than the fight part.
Self-deprecation (in this case, self-defecation) can be very endearing. It puts people at ease. It lets them know you are not in competition with them. With guys, this can be a big deal as we are always, by default, in competitive mode. However, when someone puts their worst foot forward, we are immediately disarmed. Revealing the crappy (literally!) part of my story says to the other guys, “I don’t really have it all together, so it’s alright for you to let your guard down.”
Things are not much different in theology. You see, we have a lot of crap in our theology. Sure, we take theological stands on many things. I am a Calvinist. I am a complementarian. I am not a charismatic. I am a Protestant who believes in sola Scriptura (in fact, I just taught on this subject tonight). I have a lot of positions on which I take a definite stand. But that fact does not mean that my position is perfect, or that I have to present it as such. Most of my theological persuasions have a stench that I should not be hiding. While they may win the “battle of doctrines,” my positions also have their relative weaknesses and many of them don’t come across as cleanly as I would like.
It is important for us to be comfortable enough with our beliefs to reveal the weaknesses they may have. Why? First, because it is honest. We must have the integrity before the Lord to not hide the things about which we are embarrassed. Second, it disarms people. It causes them to trust you. Every time you reveal some element of embarrassment or shame, people are more likely to believe what you say. I imagine that some of you had less doubts about my one-on-six story after I revealed the embarrassing “crap” than you did before I revealed it. Why? Because why would anyone make up such a story (which has the potential to glorify them), only to taint it with such an embarrassing detail (which could have just as easily been left out)?
This truth is vitally important for us today, when people are so suspicious of our theological persuasions. Belief is harder and harder to come by these days. Conversely, revealing some of our “crap” can go a long way towards gaining an ear. When we reveal our weaknesses, people are much more likely to believe our strengths.