This weekend I was chatting with a friend who is an athletics coach. He said something that struck me. He commented that every athlete has an area of weakness, an achilles heel if you will. But he called it a ‘fault line’ - that place where all the training and hard work is most likely to break down.
For some athletes, their fault line is that their glute muscles don’t fire which leads to all kinds of misalignment as hamstrings and hip flexors over compensate for the lack of push-pull from the butt. For others, a shortening of the achilles tendon prevents the necessary bounce and roll through the foot, causing further rigidity in the calf.
In Christian formation I have heard a similar idea, with some calling our repeated areas of weakness our ‘signature sin,’ which isn’t a term I like. And yet, it does remind me of the way we become known for our habitual hang-ups or ingrained behaviour patterns. The ancients talked about logismoi, a Greek word used to mean destructive thought patterns or particular deceptions we are prone to believing, which then in turn affect our choices and behaviour.
In 375 AD Evagrius Ponticus developed a list of eight main thoughts patterns (I guess we could call them deceptions or temptations) from which he believed all our unhelpful or destructive behaviour arises. He taught that these are gluttony, lust, material greed, sorrow, discouragement, anger, vanity and pride. I have heard others teach that because of our childhood experiences we all believe certain things that are not true. That repeated line that plays in your head - the one that tells you who you are and how others are in relation to you? It often points to the particular lie that you or I have held onto and allowed to define how we are in the world.
I could tell you right now what that line is for me. When I am under pressure, when I am out of tune with myself, I easily fall into the trap of telling myself this: you are alone. This is quickly followed by, you’d better take care of yourself because no one will do it for you. And needless to say, believing this untruth is a sure way towards independence, misapplied strength and withdrawal. While I’m not sure if Evagrius would say that this deception of mine is rooted in discouragement or sorrow, I am certain that it is a stumbling block that keeps me from living in the truth of my redeemed reality: that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are relational to their core and that I am invited, along with all the people of God, into a place of inclusion, belonging, and interdependence. And yes, that means that there is help available to me even when I feel most alone.
What is your most often repeated untruth? What is the thing that comes to mind when you feel stressed, or out of harmony with yourself and others? Into which behaviour patterns does that lead you, when you allow yourself to entertain it as truth?