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Crossing the Line

At what point does confidence become arrogance? When do bold words turn bombastic?

How is it that one person’s rock-solid belief sounds like self-righteousness to another person? Who determines where the line we all occasionally cross in our interactions with one another is located?

We know how it goes. We’re in a discussion. We think we’re right. We don’t see any wiggle room. Others taking part think differently. They see angles and space and possibilities we don’t. We’re annoyed. We find ourselves blurting out, “Ok, now you’ve crossed the line!” Gone too far. Pushed too hard. Found those “buttons” deep within us and started playing us like a slot machine. It’s uncomfortable. We feel threatened. We’re committed to what we believe. Tenacious about how we think. We’re baffled that everyone else doesn’t fall into line alongside us.

From the beginning of life on earth there have been disagreements between people because of conflicting ways of seeing reality. There have also been many a false claim made in service to deceiving others in order to advance one’s own gain. Humans can sometimes be slick and slimy creatures. Occasionally, we might sense that we are in a tight spot, backed into a corner, with only one option available to us: crossing the line. But this time instead of butting our way forward we back down. Compromising. Reneging. Amending. Yielding the bombastic. Watering down the bold. Having been called into question, we fold. Is it any wonder we creatures do so much damage to ourselves and others?

Barely a few pages into the preface of her book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, Duke professor Kate Bowler writes this: “I don’t believe that anymore.” Stunning, isn’t it? A bright young woman publicly proclaims that she has crossed a line. Belief to disbelief. Confidence to doubt. Trust to mistrust. Innocence to raw awareness. What prompted the shift? A diagnosis. Reeling from the news that cancer had erupted within her, she realized she could no longer accept that “hardships were only detours” in life. They are part and parcel of it. The threat of death conspires alongside every breath of life. And at some point, the line is crossed.

Can it be crossed back over? Such claims have been made. Books have been sold and movies produced. Talk shows have been populated by those who say so. Bold or bizarre? Fervent or fake? Confident or crazy? Sooner or later, when the detours disappear, we’ll all cross that line. From what angle do we view it? Is it the finish or just the beginning?

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