Fault Lines

by Andy Wood on March 22, 2009

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Insight, Life Currency, Love, LV Cycle, Principle of Legacy

san-andreas-faultI don’t know geology, but I know generally what they’re talking about when they use the word, “fault.”  Somewhere deep in the foundations of the earth are places where cracks produce shifts at times in the earth’s foundation.  We experience them as earthquakes.  Destructive and deadly, they leave scars on lives and landscapes that time alone doesn’t fix.  All the result of faults that,  may have seemed nonexistent a day earlier.

Faults show up in the Bible, too.  “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other,” James says, “so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16, LB).  First thing I notice is that even “righteous men” have faults.  And who better to pray for our faults than someone who is painfully aware of their own?

Of course, we have other names for faults… character flaws, weaknesses, besetting sins, vices.  But “fault,” understood in the context of a geologist, provides a beautiful word picture.  Like the San Andreas Fault in California, all of us have cracks in our foundation.  Regardless of how they got there (unhealed hurts, unfulfilled desires, self-will-run-riot, etc.), we have them.  And just as earthquakes follow a pattern of generally showing up at the same place(s) again and again, we, too, “quake” just above our own fault lines.  Rarely is it something new – just a new manifestation of the same old cracks in our foundation.

Two Kinds of Faults

We have two different kinds of faults – those we’re aware of, and those we aren’t.  If you were to ask me to list my shortcomings, I could give you my perspective (if I wanted to).  But ask my wife, and you may hear a perspective I’m unaware of.   I may see things that to me are miniscule – while to Robin they look like the cousin of San Andreas.  That’s why the psalmist prayed, “Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12, HCS).

We all are particularly sensitive to faults in others that mirror our own.  When I see laziness in my kids it hits a nerve, because that’s one of the faults I’m aware of in myself.  Same goes for sloppiness, hot-headedness, and a litany of other things.  Does that mean that my job is to point out to others the cracks I see in them?  Some people, after all, assume that as their life’s calling.  Not according to Jesus.  He said to take care of the beam in your own eye before picking the speck out of your brother’s.


I’ve observed three responses in people who are confronted with their own faults.  Some people hide.  Remember Adam in the Garden?  The reason James had to specifically say to confess our faults is because confession runs contrary to human nature.  The lie of shame tells us that if others know our faults they’ll reject us.  So we hide them, and for many that’s a lifetime pursuit.  The sad truth is, by hiding those fundamental flaws, they create even more faults.  What’s more, our best attempts at hiding only set us (and others) up for the quake to come.  Hidden faults never stay hidden forever.


Other people respond to the awareness of their faults by hurling.  Here’s an old favorite from childhood:  “It’s not my f——!”  Or its more sinister cousin:  “This is all your fault.”  The lie is that by shifting the focus or hurling the blame, we can be excused or justified for our inappropriate behavior.

Adam did it:  “The woman….

Eve did, too:  “The serpent…

And we’ve been hurling somehow ever since.  Hurling takes on many forms beyond the obvious direct lashing.  Sometimes, for example, it’s an inside job.  We never actually say it’s our spouse’s fault.  We just think it.  Or act like it.  Or carry out some passive-aggressive stunt to punish them for inconveniences caused by our own fault lines.


God offers a more productive alternative.  It’s called healing.  Against the laughable excuse that says, “That’s just who I am,” Jesus replies, “I died to change who you are.”  He offers us a pathway of courageous Christianity in order to find healing in the most fundamental aspects of our lives.

Unlike geological plates and pressure points, character faults can be mended.  Perhaps the starting point for that is to actually believe that they can.  Right behind that comes the humbling truth we must face – that we can’t heal our own faults.

To the chagrin of the hiders, the truth is clear:  hidden faults just get faultier.  The pathway to healing is honesty.  “Rigorous honesty,” the Recovery literature calls it.  It comes from a searching and fearless moral inventory (another Twelve-Step piece) that is willing to “confess to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Mutual Makes it Healable

This confession, if healthy, is mutual.  It’s made to one another. [James 5:16]  That’s not to say that there is no room in the Body for Paul-Timothy relationships, where Timothy confesses to Paul, and Paul confesses to Peter or somebody else.  But it does mean that every believer is actively engaged in the redemptive process of being both confessor and priest.  Everybody needs somebody they trust to listen sympathetically and pray.  And once open, they make themselves teachable.  Accountable (there’s that darling word).  Approachable.  Healable!

“The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful.”   Do you believe that?  The context of that truth is in the wake of your humble, honest confession of your fault lines.

So what makes a person a “righteous” man?  The fact that they, too, have confessed their faults to someone else, and are actively engaged in the pursuit of their own growth, healing, and holiness.

Nobody likes it when their fault lines are exposed – especially after experiencing a measure of exciting victory.  Nobody likes living in the aftershock of somebody else’s lifequake.

The good news, though, is that the faults are healable when we get teachable.  And humble.  Does that take courage?  Yep.  But it’s the only way to move forward in the development of character.

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