On Being Congruent
This long blog post is not an easy read. It is about truth, about being honest, about earning the respect of much loved grandchildren.
There are two pictures of flowers with this post. I was told one was not real and after I posted this blog article, I found out both are real so I am updating and correcting. One features real flowers. One looked fake but it was real. Both look lovely. But it matters that we know the difference between the two. Both require soil, water, and were God created. One grows on a bush. The other one is a work of art, beautiful, but not growing outdoors, depending on rainfall and sunshine. We can admire both but we should not think they are the same or present them as anything other than what they are in reality. In life we need to be able to know truth in words and actions versus lies and deception. So let’s enjoy the flowers as I write about being congruent.
The Thesaurus suggests consistent as a word choice for congruent. I am not sure I agree. Someone could be consistently unreliable, untruthful, and maybe still be congruent if their actions and words matched up with the values, ethics, personality. But I would not want to count that person as a friend. An acquaintance maybe, an associate if necessary, but never a friend.
Eugene Peterson, a Christian writer, has published a book entitled As Kingfishers Catch Fire. I signed up for a three-day devotional without any idea as to content of the book or the three-day dip into that book. I simply like Eugene Peterson and the way he writes. Thus, I was intrigued when his words shone a light into one of my repeated struggles in life. Truth matters to me.
I realize two people may well see two opposing things and both be right, both speak the truth. My struggle has always been with people purposely rewriting a truth, speaking almost truthful words, and especially when spoken or written words do not match actions.
Decades ago back dating after years of being married I was often perplexed, confused, uneasy. A counselor once told me to quit listening to words or even reading words in a note or letter and to watch the actions instead. I was startled. I am a word person. Began reading at the age of four, writing at the age of eight.
Still that advice changed the way I lived. I quit expecting all people to match actions with words. I treasure people where words and actions match. I know that won’t always happen and there are seasons where I dwell in situations where words and actions seldom match. It is likely that my love of the Triune God is based on a trust that God’s actions, even mysterious ones, line up with what I learn through Bible study. But I don’t want to linger there in this blog post.
This is about congruence and truth telling. I have been told many times that I am a truth teller. Well, I avoid telling lies or misleading people. I don’t always speak truths. Some things do not need to be said or shared.
On to congruence. According to Peterson, congruence means in harmony or that the outside matches the inside. He suggests a well-known phrase to clarify lives lived in congruence. Practice what you preach. He asks if the words and actions in my life match up with the thoughts in my head, with the core of who I am.
As I read his discussion on this topic, I felt an understanding grow within and a new peace settle deep into my being.
I have been trapped sometimes in relationships where there was little congruence. When someone repeatedly says one thing, preaches right choices, but purposely lives the opposite of what he or she says, I actually have a physical reaction. The world seems tilted. I get dizzy, nervous, anxious. Went through one of those times fairly recently.
And it took me awhile to prayerfully work through the damage done to my heart. I retreated into a kind of isolation, felt depression nibbling at my edges. I hadn’t gone through that cycle for many years. I was frustrated to be there again. It left me wary, guarded, reluctant to risk again. I got over it. Thanks God, literally thank God.
And because I am a word person, I will now prayerfully look for congruency in new acquaintances, in new groups that I join or lead. And I will use that as a measuring stick for elected and appointed officials. More importantly, I will strive, with God’s help, to be congruent. That matters. And it really matters in my interactions with loved ones, with those who I might influence the wrong way unless I remain alert and congruent. Thinking of my grandkids now. I want them to trust that this grandmother’s words and actions match and that they reflect me as a follower of the perfect truth teller, perfect promise maker and keeper, Jesus Christ.
Being a grandparent is a joy. Doing it right can make a long-term difference in a grandchild. I want to do it right. I want them to know who I am and who I pray and believe they can be. Each one is precious, unique, and a gift in my life.
Does congruence matter to you?