THE GRACEFUL KLUTZ:
AN ALTERNATIVE UNDERSTANDING
A man locks the door to his home, turns to leave, but is nearly pulled off his feet by catching his jacket-pocket on the door knob. A young lady casually walking through the buffet line inexplicably loses her balance and in a valiant effort to maintain her footing, spills her drink on the floor, and, more tragically, on herself. A little boy, seated at his family’s kitchen table, leans down to retrieve from the floor the fork that he dropped there, and before he knows it, is in a heap on the floor, no closer to the table-top then his fork was before he expended the effort. A little girl, exercising the purpose of a jump rope, gets her ankle caught in the cord and, after a series of unfortunate events moving in a generally downward direction, concludes those events with a skinned left knee and a bruised right elbow.
Such occurrences as these, commonly known as “accidents,” display the principles of “Murphy’s Law.” Such accidents regularly occur and this is not uncommon—so long as they do not happen with regularity to any single person. If all the above mentioned accidents, and others like them, were frequently to strike misfortune in the life of a single individual in the course of a less-than-a-day, we would lovingly refer to that person by the endearing title of “klutz.” By lovingly I mean, in the common definition of klutz, which most people consider when they hear the word. For instance, something along the lines of, “Klutz: an offensive term that deliberately insults someone’s physical or social coordination and skills,” or “Klutz: an offensive term deliberately insulting someone’s intelligence.” The klutz is the person who, in the ordinary course of his or her daily routine, regularly but with no fault or intention, is waylaid by mishaps, often causing the poor person embarrassment and an undue lowering of esteem in the eyes of others.
The question to be asked, however, is whether someone with the qualifications of a klutz is indeed “struck with misfortune” or is really at some social and personal disadvantage to a degree greater than his or her seemingly more adroit fellow men? Is to be a klutz actually a setback in one’s life? Or could being a klutz rather be representative of something much greater, something much higher, than seemingly inept actions?
Klutziness characterizes in an analogous manner two crucial virtues of Christian living: perseverance and trust. These two virtues sum up quite well what it means to be a Christian, for the authentic Christian strives to fulfill in his life the pious maxim, “Work as though it all depends on me; trust as though it all depends on God.” The klutz—the true, unaffected klutz—illustrates in a natural way what it is like for a person striving to live a genuinely Christian life. On the one hand there is the klutz who tries hard to live life smoothly, but despite his constant efforts mishaps abound. Then, in spite of the proliferation of misadventures, the klutz’s constant efforts continue. On the other hand there is the striving Christian who lives day to day trying to persevere in grace and to grow in virtue, trusting that God will help him achieve his end and also trusting that, if and when he should fall, God will catch him, help him up, and get him started again. As the klutz relentlessly expends his efforts to get through a day without an accident but whole-heartedly carries on even should calamity confront him, so the authentic Christian puts all his effort into living his life well, knowing that when he does he is really allowing God to be in control and, since “all things are possible for God,” should he fall he raises himself above his failure and continues on. In the same way that a klutz lacks the average amount of self-trust, since he cannot trust himself always to competently complete his actions, so too the true Christian, in attempting to live his life well, should try to remove from himself his prideful self-trust and rely on the mercy and grace of God.
One “vice,” prevalent in our society today and which contrary to this idea of Christian living, is one that I would term “lack of personal integrity” or “personal dishonesty.” Where the klutz might often draw attention to himself (one might say, innocently) by the accidents surrounding him, the personally dishonest person draws similar attention to himself intentionally by pretending to be someone he is not. He paints a false image of himself. He is not satisfied with being the person God made him to be and so makes himself into something his is not, to get attention by being something he is not. This person lacks the special virtues of the klutz, especially the virtue of trust. The person lacking personal integrity does not trust God enough to believe that God made him a unique, special, and irreplaceable human being, rather believing that emulating and imitating someone or something else will make him better than himself. This ubiquitous issue presents itself in the full range from kids idolizing, imitating, and just plain “trying to be like” celebrities to adults living double lives or having split personalities, acting one way at work, another with their fiancés or families, another with their drinking buddies and chums, and another with no one but themselves. The genuine Christian, trying to achieve constant virtue tries to be constant and consistent with himself, for such is the virtuous man. Virtue is unchanging and does not allow multiple faces or personae. It only shows one face: the face of virtue, the face of personal integrity, the face of truth. The Christian man should be striving to reach the point when every joke he tells or laughs at with his drinking buddies he can repeat without shame to his wife or girlfriend, when he treats his workmates with the same charity he would his family, and when the manner in which he lives his life when he’s alone and the manner he in which lives his life when others see him are perfect reflections of each other. What is needed to combat the epidemic of personal dishonesty is personal integrity. Without integrity a person cannot be true to himself, and only when a person is true to himself will he ever have the ability to be true to anyone else.
The “klutz” is true to himself, for he has no pretensions about who he is. He understands that he is a failing and falling human being and that he needs to trust in God and persevere on every step of the way in the fight for holiness and perfection. He realizes this is the case, whether he is with others or alone, with his chums or his wife. No matter the situation, in every case he needs God.
So—spiritually speaking—let’s fall down the steps and trip on our shoe-laces with the klutzes of the Christian life. As crazy as it sounds, let’s take a lesson from the klutz—somehow he knows what he’s doing.