Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Tragedian

Once upon a time, Ben and I took a C.S. Lewis class at LeTourneau University, and our professor, Dr. Batts, had us read, "The Great Divorce," and it changed my thinking forever. In summary, the "Great Divorce" is actually the divide between heaven and hell, and the inhabitants of hell (which is described as a place devoid of God) are permitted a field trip to heaven. Everything in heaven is dripping with truth and love. He tells stories of the visitors from hell meeting people in heaven, some of which they knew back on Earth. When I came upon a little man from hell who sees his wife from Earth in heaven for the first time I was surprised to find myself. Not in the beautiful woman who was full of love, forgiveness and joy, but in the ugly little man who was chained to a giant ghost Lewis refers to as the 'Tragedian'. The wife is overjoyed to see her late husband, greets him with a kiss and asks for his forgiveness for all her wrongdoings since she met him (ignoring the Tragedian). The little man had his giant answer for him, saying, "There, there, we all make's not myself I'm thinking about. It is you...The thought of you - you here alone, breaking your heart about me." She encourages him not to think like that, she tries to keep the conversation healthy. The first thing out of the little man's mouth was, "You missed me?(p.101)" and this is what stopped me in my tracks. This is the moment I started to get it. It was all about him, all the time. Later as she tries to explain that she's learned the true meaning of love and that there are no miseries in heaven, he's offended that she wasn't miserable and missing him, and searches for another insult by asking if she did not really love him in the old days (p.103).

I could quote the entire chapter, but I'd rather you read it yourself. The other part that gutted me was as the Tragedian shamelessly dramatized the little man's "plight" he grew bigger and bigger as the actual man grew smaller and smaller. When the man was so small that he couldn't be distinguished from the chain to which he was clinging she said,
"'Quick...there is still time. Stop it. Stop it at once.'
'Stop what?'
'Using pity, other people's pity, in the wrong way. We have all done it a bit on earth, you know. Pity was meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery. But it can be used the wrong way round. It can be used for a kind of blackmailing. Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom by pity. You see, I know now. Even as a child you did it. Instead of saying you were sorry, you went and sulked in the attic...because you knew that sooner or later one of your sisters would say, 'I can't bear to think of him sitting up there alone, crying.' You used their pity to blackmail them, and they gave in in the end. And afterwards, when we were married...oh, it doesn't matter, if only you will stop it."(p.107-108)

Eventually the little man was swallowed up by the giant Tragedian and was no more. The discussion between C.S. Lewis' main character and his mentor who watched all this unfold was profound, I highly recommend checking it out, it's a short book. I'd had convictions in my life before this, and I've had them since, but none were so extensive in the depth of my being as this. Rather than being shown a weed that I needed pulled, I was being shown the fibers of the fabric of my very character were rotten and that it would certainly take a lifetime to be made whole again. That was ten years ago. And it's as I thought, no quick fix. Here are some of the roles that I've found The Self-Centered Tragedian can take on, and I'm learning to watch out for:
Attention Seeking Roles:
Talking about one's self too much
Talking too much/stealing other's attention or energy
Being melodramatic
Being hypochondriacal
Saying anything that induces another person to feel guilt
Flirting/being immodest
Pride-filled Roles:
Hypersensitivity (fishing for insults)
Fishing for compliments/false modesty
False martyrdom
Keeping track of one's good deeds
Giving gifts just for the thanks
Doing good deeds just for the praise
Having to have the last word
Having to inform a gracious teacher that you already knew what they taught you.
Being impatient with others
Refusing to talk to others
Being a Pharisee: following laws or going to church just to appear Holier than thou.
Bad Steward Roles:

Just think how every one of these is not loving God or loving others. I think society is so wrapped up in self-love, self-promotion, and self-worship that we easily chain ourselves to these things without noticing. Do share additions to this list in the comments section, I'd be most grateful. The mentor explains what really lurks behind these "misery-makers":

"The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs' should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven."(The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis, 1945, p. 111).


Chris said...

Ouch! There were several of those listed that hit home for me. One of my biggest is being offended when my husband doesn't read my mind and just know what I want or need from him. By the time I communicate and ask him to do something my attitude is all bent out of shape. I also act like some of the functions or roles I perform in our marriage are the result of my generosity and he should be so very grateful to have a wife who does these things instead of doing them "as unto the Lord and not unto men."

Anonymous said...

This is an eye-opener for many reasons.

You communicate thoughts very well, causing others to learn. Thanks a bunch. We're proud to know and love you.


Anonymous said...

Very good post! i have struggled with almost if not everything on that list. Im reading a C.S. Lewis book at the moment. Its called Letters to Children. I think that jelously is a sin and could be added to the list. Love Rachel V

Deanne said...

Thoughtful and insightful post. Yet again, you did it!

For me, I deal a lot with the flip side of 'keeping track of good deeds'. I won't let myself forget or let go of the 'bad things' that I do. I know this hinders the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and consequently keeps joy from being a large part of it. A few months back the Lord revealed something to me that has taken a lot of this away but it is still something I have to work through and deal with.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.