Naming The Nameless

My friend Tim and I have been close friends since we met in 2001 or so, but over the last two years or so, we’ve been “holding each other accountable”. (Although we’re overdue for a phone conversation, I’m calling you this week Tim!)

As men who are learning to be honest and vulnerable, strong and broken, we have found that there are many obstacles that keep men isolated even in the most friendly of circles. Simply put, men don’t talk, don’t know how to talk, and don’t know what to say if and when they ever get there.

As an Asian guy, I would say this is doubly hard for me. Just to say that I have a problem or that I even need to talk elicits all kinds of conflicted feelings including guilt, shame, and even the occasional fit of despair, all before I’ve even said anything at all.

Tim, on the other hand, is all-Americana, a once-farm boy from the big city of Wabash, Indiana now living in Nashville, TN and can’t stand it when I can’t say what I mean, or even worse, when I don’t do what I say.And so, Tim has held me accountable for the last two years, often kicking and screaming.

But in that span, I will say that I have found freedom. I have learned to be more honest about the temptations and proto-addictions that I face. I have gained the strength to talk about them more openly and ask for help from my wife. I have seen God’s power to be more than just friends, but to be active in the process of forming one another in the image of Christ.

In my new and growing understanding of temptation, idolatry, and addiction, I have found that we tend not to name the things we value most. We often make weak, watered-down confessions that objectify the thing, “I have a problem with lust” or “Pray for my problem with work”, but never subjectify it–”I am a sex addict” or “I am a procrastinator”. We are rarely specific nor do we own up to the fact that the “thing” is in us, has infiltrated our very being, has grafted itself into our very DNA, family life, church life, etc.Part of breaking a taboo is to name it. Because we worship the thing we refuse to name, we must name it in order that it might come down from its altar and not be made holy. We must name the nameless — and any “love that dare not speak its name” is a love not worth having.

Is it possible, that our Christian-speak has brought forth an irreverence for God but a reverence for our perversions? Do we speak the name of God in vain? Vain because we are willing to reciprocate this friendship with him, but never call out the demons in our very soul? What are their names? Are they perhaps “Legion” among us?

Confession must be specific…my pathologist wife would never dream of just diagnosing something “cancer”…every cancer has a particular name and character. Its treatment demands specificity. Why is it that we call our addiction some general thing? Are we afraid to name it? Does it rule over us because we have placed it beyond uttering its very name?

As I’ve learned, many Jews refuse to write the name of G_d, and will write YHWH or simply call G_d, “Ha-Shem” –”The Name”. My Jewish brothers have also taught me that “The Lord our God is One.” His very name is Holy.

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Comments

  1. daniel so says:

    David — Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I can definitely relate to what you’re saying here. Not to sound overly dramatic, I have been going through my own struggle recently with loneliness and depression. I have recognized the serious need I have for friendship. In my life, sometimes just having a couple of close friends with whom I can live life together helps point me on the right path — even without baring my soul (although I need that at times as well).

    Sin derives so much of its power over us from being secret. I think that’s part of the appeal of sites like Post Secret. However, these sites only offer an incomplete freedom. The secret power of these shameful things is only partly broken when it’s done in anonymity.

    Your examples of generalized prayer requests (“I have a problem with lust” or “Pray for my problem with work”) sound like every small group I have been to over the last couple of years. I don’t mean this as a criticism of the communities of which I have been a part because I know I am often unwilling to share deep things as well. Maybe I’m still stuck in that honor/shame system or am just used to hiding.

  2. David Park says:

    Daniel, you are not alone and I mean that in every way.

    It is funny that when we begin to speak up, that I think we start noticing a modus operandi. Like you said, small groups are good, but unless we are willing to go even deeper than that, I think they will be limited in restoration.

    But I’ve noticed that more Asians have a real issue with getting deeper than that “small group” level. I know it’s not easy for anyone regardless of race, but particularly with Asians, I have not experienced this type of vulnerability. The closest I’ve come is to use that type of “cloaked” language. If Tim weren’t as persistent as he is/was, I’m not sure if I would have ever gotten this far.

  3. daniel so says:

    David — Thanks for the support. Things have been pretty tough lately, so it’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

    I totally feel you on the “cloaked” language. In our sharing, Asian people have these weird code words that, even if everyone in the room knows what we mean, we use anyways. As much as I cannot relate to first gen Asian culture, I am still very much steeped in the honor/shame culture of not revealing too much. Part of it comes from another Asian characteristic — not wanting to burden others with my junk. Not a very good mix for building authentic community.

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  1. […] Park recently shared some great thoughts about accountability, authenticity and friendship. As I read, I was reminded of the “accountability” group I was a part of during my […]

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