Tightrope Walking | Psalm 1 (1/3)
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers…
A thirteen-year-old on a school trip actively helped classmates to hide shoplifted goods from their teachers. When questioned, she talked about commitment to friends, peer group loyalty, not being a telltale, and the fear of being ostracised as a goody-goody. Some parents, fearing such pressures, home-school their children, wanting them to grow in Christian wisdom before they face the challenge of maintaining their integrity in the complex relationships of social living.
Yet, even those of us who are mature adults don’t always find it easy to maintain warm relationships and Christian integrity when we live and work closely with all kinds of people. We may encounter several choices of action where it’s simply not clear which is the right course. Faced with an issue that involves following ‘wicked’ advice or joining in with ‘mockers’, do we walk away, stay silent, protest, or what? Like the girl on the school outing, we too can see the importance of maintaining good relationships with colleagues, keeping quiet so as not to antagonise others or look like wet blankets. It can seem such good sense to compromise rather than sacrificing our influence.
Even so, many of us will recognise the downward spiral that appears to be described in the opening verse of Psalm 1 – the move from walking to standing to sitting down. So, there is a challenge for us here. Whose advice are we listening to on the walk of life? Whose path are we standing on? Whose company are we sitting down to enjoy most of all?
Rudyard Kipling defined maturity as being able to ‘talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch’ – a maturity that doesn’t try too hard to please and doesn’t sacrifice integrity to keep the peace.
We do not hold back from full and fruitful relationships, whether at work, school, or in the community – but we may sometimes have to say no and walk away. The decision may be painful, though many have found unexpected allies who were longing for someone to take the lead. Maybe if the girl on the school trip had refused to collaborate with her classmates, more of them would have been relieved to follow suit. We do walk a tightrope sometimes, but our ‘balance’ will depend on our close relationship with the Lord who teaches true discernment.
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