Good men

Someone told me recently, “You’re a good man, Tony.”

This made me think of a James Taylor concert I heard about once. In the hush between sets, someone in the audience shouted, “I love you, James!”

Taylor stepped to the microphone and replied, “That’s because you don’t know me.”

Do you ever feel some days that the people who think best of you know you least? Perhaps you’re in that shivering crew of harder-luck folks, or well-deserving folks, the ones who are liked least by the ones who know them best.

Either way, it gets hard to put one foot in front of another, doesn’t it, when the person you feel like you are, or are becoming, or have become, and the person people think they see — when these persons feel like different people altogether.

Who are you? The you inside yourself, or the you outside, the you they think they know, or perhaps — and this is most frightening — the you someone knows better than you know yourself.

So when I heard this good man stuff I cringed, cringed all the way down to the nub of a soul that still rattles around in this empty frame, and the outside me laughed and made appropriately humble remarks and did his best to conceal the fact that he is only polish and glimmer, just smiling skin over soul-sick bones.

If nobody ever calls me that again it will be years too late. Last Friday — Good Friday, good in the deep, rich, holy sense of that word — I drove with my sons to hear the lamentations of Mary. I craned my neck over the steering wheel and peered up at the sky that was like dimpled steel, and I was overwhelmed by the sense that while I am in no ways good, I have been blessed with so many good things, and chief among them these children and this dimpled-steel sky and a Church so grace-filled that it will not turn away even the likes of me.

Good man? Hardly. But I know four boys who can be, if God is as good and merciful and forgetful as I pray he will be.


  1. Gray

    Hey, you know at the end of the age none of us will be ‘good men’. The God of creation knows us all and loves us all. Last Ressurection Sunday we celebrated the love of the God of the creation for all of His creation.

    The reformed confession of faith says, “He descended into hell. On the third day he arose from the dead.” He went where we all deserve to go, even the ‘Good Man’ among us.

    It sounds like you are dwelling close to the place that he has already been for you Tony. The God of the universe has forgiven you, maybe you should forgive yourself too.

    Just a thought…

  2. Spud

    Two things come to mind. I thought of you, Tony, on the day after Good Friday (Insterstitial Saturday – does that day need a name?) when I attended a funeral. A friend from church had to bury her 33 y.o. son after a car accident. No parent should have to bury their babies, yet we live in a fallen world. During the ceremony, as most people do, I wondered what would be said at mine. Would others refer to me as good, faithful, caring? I won’t be sticking around to find out!

    I’m also reminded of Jesus’ admonition for us to be humble, as in the difference between the Pharasee(sp?) who tithed/fasted and the tax collector beating his unworthy chest. As we grow in faith, we continue to be overwhelmed by our “lack” and inability to be where we need to be, so it’s only natural for us to question how good we are.

  3. eli

    First, dittos on Gray’s comments.

    Second,what’s even harder for me is when my sin becomes obvious to others and yet I receive God’s grace through His servants.

    It is so difficult to accept sometimes. I say “No! I am not worthy!” And I hear back, “Of course you’re not but neither are any of us!”

  4. Ann

    Mr. W. I think the measure of our lives is how much collateral damage we do (or more importantly don’t do) as we work out the process of being ourselves.

    Nowhere is that more apparent to me than when watching people parent.

  5. Jim

    I think it was Brennan Manning who called self-hatred a sin equal to self-conceit. They’re just different forms of focusing on the self.

    I don’t know if you’re a good man or not. I do know you’re a thoughtful and gifted writer, and that your words (and your honesty) move your readers in beautiful ways.

    I know that you love your children, deeply and desperately, and that is one measure of a man. I often think it is the only thing I have to offer the world.

    And I know that you have been wounded in ways beyond my comprehension, and that your response is beyond my judgement.

    I agree with Gray and Eli: how about a little grace for yourself?

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