High Gates


"Duncan pushed me, Auntie Lyn, for NO REASON at all!"

I hadn't witnessed the preceding events personally, but as I looked down at the 7 year old's upturned face, I couldn't help but see the painted-on innocence. "Really," I said. "For no reason at all, Olivia?"

"No, Auntie Lyn!" Cried out the very innocent voice. "I didn't do ANYTHING to him!"

I looked over at 5-year old Duncan, who was purposefully avoiding all eye contact with me, guilt written all over his stance. Then I glanced up at my 17 year-old son who had witnessed the tattled scene. He just shrugged his shoulders. He knew good and well what I would say, he had heard it so many times!

You see, I am a firm believer that there are two sides to EVERY story, and that no matter how one-sided an argument or dispute might be, there is usually some responsibility to be held by the supposed "innocent".

"Olivia," I said, "I'm really sorry Duncan pushed you. It wasn't right that he did that, and I will deal with him about that. But I want you to think: Was there any reason why he might have been mad at you?"

My 17-year-old smiled knowingly. Yup, here was the lecture he'd heard so many times!

"No, Auntie Lyn! No reason!"

"Olivia," I said, "were you sharing with Duncan?"

My 17-year-old shook his head adamantly, giving me the answer I already knew, but Olivia's sealed the verdict:

"But I had it first!"

I nodded my head, and to my son's relief, I stopped the familiar lecture there. You see, the two of them were staying with me for the day because their mother had been taken by ambulance to the hospital. They were scared for their mother, and their stress was driving them to do all kinds of things that would fall in the category of "unacceptable behaviour".

But the whole thing made me think. In our society we are pretty quick to point the finger and pass the blame. We do anything to make ourselves look innocent and the other, guilty.

But then, this isn't new, is it? In so doing, aren't we just parroting the responses of our original parents?

"And said, 'who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?' The man said, 'The woman you put here for me -- SHE gave me some fruit from the tree . . .' Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said, 'THE SERPANT deceived me, and I ate.'" (Gen. 3:11-13 NIV Emphasis added.)

We are always so defensive! If we are late to work, it had nothing to do with the fact that we should have left 5 minutes earlier. It's because all the stop lights turned red just as we got there. If we make a mistake, it has nothing to do with the fact that we were negligent. It's because we got distracted! If there is a fight in the home, it's not related to the fact that we came home from work upset by the happenings of the day. It's completely because our spouse is being selfish and uncaring!

You know what I mean! Just like my little niece was an innocent victim of the pushing incident, we, too, are totally innocent victims of what life throws our way!

The Bible speaks very plainly about this type of an attitude, in a tiny little verse tucked into the middle of Proverbs 17: "He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction." (Vs. 19 NIV)

But wait! What does this have to do with the topic at hand? We don't build high gates anymore!

Or do we? In Bible times, a high wall and high gate were built for defensive purposes. The higher the wall, the more effort an attacking army would have to put into bringing it down. The "high gate" of Proverbs 17 is symbolic of our defensiveness! Little Olivia's tattling was a "high gate", and so are the excuses we so often make to justify ourselves.

But the Bible is clear: "he who builds a high gate invites destruction." (Prov. 17:19b).

How much better it would be if we would accept responsibility for our actions. It's true that some things are completely outside of our control, but many of the things that happen to us are, at least to some degree, rooted in our own actions. The cirrhosis of the liver is likely related to the alcohol abuse we may have succumb to early in life. The medication mistake at work may have been related to the fact that we stayed out late watching a movie and then had to come to work for an early shift. The fight last night with our spouse may have been related to the fact that we didn't take the time to listen to his or her concerns before the voices rose to shouting proportions.

Friends, what "high gates" do you nurture? Do not forget that they only invite destruction, and the best way to deal with them is to tear them down by admitting our own responsibility in whatever went wrong. We must correct our own behaviour so that the incident will be much less likely to happen again!

Duncan and Olivia (not their real names) are truly very sweet kids. They may have their moments, but then, don't we all?

"He who builds a high wall invites destruction." (Prov. 17:19b)

Lyn Chaffart

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