Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thoughts on Thumos

My good friend Scott Earl has been an active blogger for quite a while. He just began a new blog and I wanted to share his first post with you for two reasons. First, because it's very good and second, because I wanted to introduce you to his blog, My Name is Earl.

Here is what Scott had to say:

I have been reading Paul Coughlin's Unleashing Courageous Faith, and the central idea of the book is the concept of thumos. Thumos, as defined by Coughlin, is a "courageous and animating spirit." From what I can discern, it's the part of us that makes us want to fight for what is right, our sense of outrage when we see the injustices in the world, and our drive to do something about those injustices.

I often share with my students an article I read about heroes in an issue of Life magazine years ago. It was written by Wally Lamb, an award-winning author and former high school teacher. He shared a story about his hero. Briefly, Lamb was outside in the courtyard of the school when he noticed a ruckus. As he made his way through the crowd, he could see that several of the jocks were throwing coins at a boy with Downs syndrome. The boy would laugh and bend down to pick up the coins. As the seconds passed, the coins began hitting the boy harder and harder. The crowd cheered the boys on and became louder with every flying coin. Just as Lamb was about to get to the boy, a petite girl busted in front of the crowd, grabbed the boy, and pulled him out of the crowd. Lamb was amazed at the girl for not only risking physical injury by doing this, but also by her courage to risk the taunts and shunning that could have occurred due to her actions. Lamb claims that this girl is his hero to this day.

I get choked up every time I tell this story. Maybe it's because I worked with developmentally disabled adults for more than a decade. Maybe it's because I love to hear about students who do something extraordinary in the face of adversity. But maybe it's because I always wish I was more brave and more able to act when situations of inequity present themselves.

In my mind, this girl was the definition of thumos in action. God did not make us to be meek, mild, and accepting in these situations. Yes, we are supposed to be loving, but we are also built to engage our thumos in the face of injustice and wrongdoing.

If Christians are to always answer to the question, "What would Jesus do?", then we should look at what Jesus was capable of doing in the face of injustice and wrongdoing. In Matthew 23:23-39, Jesus shows a side of himself -- a side of God -- that we rarely hear about in church. He berates the pharisees for their pious ways, calling them names and yelling at them for their hypocritical behavior. By doing so, he was literally risking his life for justice.

While this barely scratches the surface concerning the content of Coughlin's book, it is a good start to understanding what our thumos should be doing. Injustices are not to be ignored or handled with white gloves. We should not turn the other cheek when others are being subjected to the pain of injustice.

Lord, You have endowed me with Your me tap into it and use it for Your good, Your plan. Help me be a better man for You.

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