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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brut Force

In 1963 or '64 I attended a conference between a small group of students and university administrators. It was held at a resort situated on the Florida Gulf Coast. Why exactly I was there I do not know for certainly I was something of a wimp, however a somewhat complex one. I felt called--even destined--to be a leader but saw myself completely lacking in what I can only call the elemental brute ego force found in leaders (some may more kindly call it robust confidence). I thus felt somewhat estranged from other leaders. Though I could be reluctantly assertive, I remained isolated and remote. I remember on a swimming outing standing alone waste deep in the ocean detached and apart from the others.

What gets to the heart of the matter better than anything else involved a bottle of cologne. I shared a room with another student. On first entering the room together, we found a complimentary green bottle of Brut cologne sitting on the dresser (with the trademark silver medallion hanging on a chain around the bottle's neck). This would seem to be a desirable commodity for any young man and my roommate instantly took a liking to it and more or less claimed it. I felt intensely that the cologne was forbidden for me. I felt deeply a consternation about it. It suggested a boldness, a sophistication, a frankness, an assertiveness--an ego--that was simply inaccessible to me. People may have thought of me in several ways, but Brut was ridiculously remote from any tenable characterization of Wayne.

Over time I have come to realize that Brut can be my preferred cologne. First, I had to fully appreciate that man is saved by grace not works. In other words, the fact that I do not have a long list of accomplishments and superior qualities by which I've "earned" love and respect is completely beside the point. Saving love is not earned, but is a gift from God. So, in this sense, what I've accomplished over the past 50 years is irrelevant now as it would have been 50 years ago. This disassociation of self-worth from works is key to separating commendable pride from hurtful arrogance. Secondly, I tend to see all matters in the light of Jesus. One of the first things Jesus had to prove (perhaps even to himself) was that he could hold his own against the devil. During the Temptations, with a sound ego he told the devil just where he could get off--Jesus was in this sense wearing the scent of Brut. A solid ego is not only necessary--but called for and commendable. Finally, I have come to disassociate assertiveness from sin. In fact I have come to the very opposite conclusion--the lack of assertiveness can itself be a major sin.

Tonight I have ordered on Amazon a medallioned bottle of Brut. I may not wear the cologne so much as keep the bottle on my desk as a symbol of how much my views have changed over the years and the freedom “to be” I now enjoy.

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