Friday, December 9, 2011

Good But Not Too Good

"That’s way too much earnestness for the ironic. It’s way too much idealism for the cynical. And it’s way too much selflessness for the self-absorbed."

I was reading an opinion piece here about why Tim Tebow's religiosity bothers so many people. I'm not one for getting in people's faces in general, and I'm not sure I would be so out there with my religion. However, I find it fascinating that Tebow's expressions of faith are considered controversial and cause such a visceral reaction.

It makes me think of a couple of friends of mine. One is an extremely generous person who is always thinking of others and doing kind things, usually anonymously. The other friend is very fun to be around and extremely quick-witted, but generally gives only to her closest friends and family. I don't want to judge my second friend too harshly, because I'm not sure that I'm any better than her in this regard. However, it happened that one day the generous friend had something that she decided to share anonymously with a woman whom she didn't know well but thought she needed cheering up. Our funny friend found out about this and angrily confronted my generous friend, "How could you give that to her?!? You barely know her. You always do this! Did you stop to think that maybe your good friends wanted that? You are so selfish!"

My generous friend was floored. She couldn't understand why she was accused of being selfish for doing something kind. She confided in me that not only were her feelings hurt, but she lost a lot of respect for our funny friend. I realized that our friend's reaction most likely was not about the actual thing my generous friend shared, but more of a reaction to her kindness in general. I think it made her feel guilty. I think my funny friend felt all of her flaws were being pointed out every time our generous friend did something generous.

I share this because I think that is part of the problem many have with Tim Tebow's expressions of his religious faith. It's a slap in the face to see someone actually striving to live their faith. It's the same reason that heroes in today's movies and TV shows always have major character flaws; nobody can really be entirely good. Everybody has skeletons in their closet. Everyone does bad things. Nobody can really live a life of high moral values. It's not realistic, and it's just downright offensive if somebody does it. At least, that seems to be the current view in our society. You can be good, but not too good.

Within the Mormon culture, I've seen this same pattern. Yes, you should keep the commandments, but don't be so obvious about it. Don't make me feel bad if I choose to do a few things wrong. You're the one who has the problem because you're just too good, or you're just trying to appear to be that good. I've met many a member of the church who believes that the only reason anyone would strive to keep all the commandments is to impress everyone else. What's interesting is how much these reactions reveal about the person having them. Which leads me back to Tim Tebow. The only reason his religiosity bothers people so much is because it reveals to them so much about themselves, and they don't like that.


Audrey said...

I've thought a lot about this very same topic lately. I think that your assessment of it is probably pretty true in a lot of cases, but I also think that there's a different side too. I read that Plummer--the other quarterback--said that he respects Tebow's religious views, but he also respects him as an athlete and he thinks it will be nice when Tebow can just play a little bit without talking about Christ constantly. I guess sometimes when people constantly harp on the same topic, I begin to question their sincerity. The idea of fasting in private--not putting on a face--comes to mind as a bit where I'm going. I do admire him for his strong Christian values, but I do think there is a balance in there somewhere.
As for your funny friend, that's a weird reaction. She definitely has some issue.

kimberlina said...

Audrey, that's a good point. I've had the same reaction before, and I definitely agree that how we live in private speaks much more than how we do in public. It's interesting though how much antipathy there is out there for any kind of religious faithfulness.

Yes, my funny friend has some kindness issues. What I didn't mention in the post is that I have another friend who did almost the same thing, and both of these women (who don't know each other) have very similar personalities. People are funny. Luckily, both friends are old acquaintances who I don't have contact with anymore so I felt free to share.

Lacey said...

We too have been watching this all unfold and I have mixed feelings about it. It's a lot like when an actress tries to get all political. People get annoyed and just want you to do your job. I also am reminded of the kids at school who would carry their Bibles around with them but you never actually saw them reading them. Or they were the ones you heard about at parties getting wasted. If your going to put yourself out there then you better have a squeeky clean personal life.
I just mostly feel like there is a time and a place for everything. And does Heavenly Father really care if you get down on one knee in the middle of a NFL game to say a prayer? Or would he much rather you stand quietly with your eyes closed and not bring so much attention to yourself.
And I agree with Audrey- your funny friend had a weird way of showing that her feelings were hurt. We all serve in different ways and it's hard to say that because you do it differently than me that we aren't both considered serving. Good points Kim.

L. said...

An excellent post! Once again I think you should send a couple of your posts to Segullah. You are an excellent and deep-thinking writer!

Love you!