Embracing Gollum

Today’s rant is a confession, and I’m going to try my best to be brutally honest … no filters. Normally, I might seek to massage the circumstances, or offer subtle justifications for my transgressions, motivated by a self-serving compulsion to mitigate and minimize my failings. I might even attempt to diminish the severity of my deeds by universalizing them with obvious and redundant declarations such as, “I’m just a human like everyone,” or “Nobody’s perfect,” so as to not cast myself in such an unattractive light. I’ll endeavor to resist that temptation here … it won’t be pretty.

Last week, I saw a news report about a 19-year-old spring breaker in Gulf Shores, Alabama who fell from a balcony and sustained serious head injuries as a result. He was immediately airlifted to the nearest hospital. Thankfully, he had fallen from a lower floor of the hotel; and I believe (and hope) he did survive and will recover. My confession is this … when I saw the story, I immediately heard a very ugly, very cruel, subconscious, knee-jerk voice echoing from my past … wa-a-ay back there in the darkest corners and crevices of my mind and soul. To me, it sounded a lot like Gollum, that bug-eyed, devil-voiced, cowardly little cave-creature in “The Lord of the Rings” movies, who’s so obsessed with a certain gold ring that it utterly consumes his soul. From wa-a-ay back there in his pitch-black cave, I heard him spewing venom that sounded just like this … “Serves him right. He got exactly what he deserved. Little college punk was probably down there partying his little college punk @$$ (coded for the network censors) off (on Daddy’s money, of course), in a drunken stupor; probably blitzed out of his mind on cheap beer and who-knows-what, carrying on and making a fool of himself, dancing like a trained monkey on the railing of the balcony and showing off for yet another thong-bikini-clad, beer-and-margarita-fueled nubile little tart, (toting Mama’s credit card this time), equally boisterous, lifting her top to give him and everyone else in Gulf Shores a free peep show … and down he went. Like I said, serves him right.” And that was just the warm-up. Can you believe that something that ugly, self-righteous, judgmental, and downright hateful came out of my brain, (or rather, even more sadly, lives in my brain)? There was a time when that screechy, demonic voice was the perpetual soundtrack that softly, (or sometimes not so softly), accompanied the cinemascope of my life.

That’s the confession part. Here’s the analysis part. Where did that kind of vile and poisonous thinking come from? And here’s another confession … that poor kid in Gulf Shores, (who, in reality, was probably just a really good kid having a really good time, and suffered a lapse in good judgment that resulted in a terrible accident), is but one small example of probably hundreds or even thousands that I could have cited had I wished to do so. It seems that this kind of thinking has dominated my inner monologue nearly all my life. So again, where does it come from? Certainly not my parents … they’ve always been the consummate models of kindness, mercy, and acceptance … can’t pin it on them. I can’t pin it on my brother or sisters … they take after my parents (damn them!). I can’t blame society (always a convenient scapegoat for our shortcomings) … society beckons us all to “just chill out … live and let live.” I might be getting a little warmer if I lay it at the feet of my overly religious youth, but I’m not even sure I can go there with complete integrity, either. I could blame it on the devil, but something tells me that he doesn’t have to work all that hard on me … I’m doing a good enough job of screwing things up on my own, so he’s perfectly content to just get out of the way and revel in the carnage. I think I’m going to have to go ahead and own this one. It came from me.

A brilliant counselor once suggested that I have what she called a “guilt based personality.” I think what she meant was that I’m kind of like Gollum … he obsesses over a gold ring, and I obsess over guilt … mostly my own. In other words, I view myself and the world around me through the dark prism of who’s to blame for all that’s not as it should be; and my mind has embraced the idea that most of the time, I’m to blame. On the surface, that sounds nice-and-honest, and humble. But there’s a deep-rooted and serious problem with this kind of thinking. First of all, it’s inaccurate … one person simply doesn’t have the power to be responsible for everything around him. Secondly, not all that occurs has anything at all to do with that one (overly self-involved) person (in this case, me). Thirdly, this prism of guilt does seem to have the effect of generating an insidious inner dialogue that sounds eerily similar to the way I reacted to that unfortunate spring breaker. In other words the way my mind snapped at him is the very way it snaps at me every time I screw up … daily, hourly, perhaps even by the moment. This guilt-fueled tape just plays and plays and plays … constantly … telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’ve failed myself and others … again, that I’m always going to be this way, that I should just give up and embrace my fate, and on and on and on.

And if that’s not sad enough, the way I “talk” to myself has a way of spilling out onto the world around me … i.e. you and every poor kid who accidentally falls off a balcony. Thank God, there is a remedy … an antidote … a powerful anti-venom … a silencer of the voice of Gollum … a soothing and healing balm … it’s called grace.

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6 Responses to Embracing Gollum

  1. Denise Settle says:

    Oh my dear brother. Although I do hate that you feel racked with guilt, I personally find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in these types of “ugly, self-righteous, judgmental, and downright hateful” thoughts and therefore the following guilt that seems to engulf my mind. We are humans and by virtue of that humanity, we are evil, and I dare say that many (even Christians) are guilty of those same type thoughts. Most of them are just not brave enough to spill their sin before hundreds. (And for that act of humble discipleship, I admire and thank you). It is the knowledge of the forgiving, powerful and divine grace of our Savior that makes me feel like garbage when I am done with my escapade of throwing someone “into the meat grinder” because I know I should not have thought (or God forbid – said) those things. That’s what brings me to my knees. Oh how I love the passage in II Corinthians 7:8-11, especially verse 10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death”. Satan loves to keep us in slavery to our sins with earthly sorrow. I praise God for the knowledge that when the Holy Spirit convicts me of my wrong and I sincerely confess my sins then they are as far as the east is from the west.

    Thank you for such honest, heartfelt pouring out of your soul. Your willingness to do so is inspiring.

    Blessings to you, Randy. I love you and am so proud to be able to call you my friend.

  2. Suzy Seidel says:

    Hmmm…not seeing the “overly religious youth” thing. Oh wait a minute…yeah. :0)

    • randyneff says:

      Something tells me you may have some significant insight into that part of my life, Suzy! 🙂

      By the way … it’s so great to “see” you again, and to witness some of what you’re doing with your amazing life!

      • Suzy Seidel says:

        If I do, then it’s mostly b/c I “resemble” that remark. LOLOL We walked the journey together, didn’t we?

        It’s great to “see” you too! You’re among some of my favorite friends from my youth whom I thought I’d lost touch with forever…keeping up your gifts like this is very inspiring to me! You’re such a blessing!!

  3. randyneff says:

    Thank you SO much, Suzy! I feel so much the same about you. My heart is full of fondness for you and the great times we had. You were such a light in my world back then … even if you do “resemble” my remarks … your kindness and genuine goodness still shone through … brightly. And they still do today. Onward and upward …

    Much love to you & Larry and your wonderful family!

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