A gadfly can act like he or she is not a gadfly, but will still be a gadfly inside. In other words, to achieve emotional intimacy with a gadfly, to love a gadfly for who he or she is, one must love that he or she is a gadfly. But a gadfly is someone who challenges others, so only someone who values humility can love a gadfly intimately. Anyone who does not seek humility can have only a superficial relationship with gadflies--such a person may be committed to a gadfly, but cannot love him or her intimately.
Why would anyone not value challenge and humility?
- If we are already struggling, additional criticism might offer no benefit.
- Challenge leads to higher expectations which in turn lead to higher failure-rates and greater incidence of depression and disappointment.
- Inflated self-confidence is a self-fulfilling prophesy--it helps us secure friendships and leadership positions--and humility undermines that process.
- Furthermore, humility incapacitates us by miring us in doubt, and
- Anyone who associates with gadflies is sure to be stigmatized by their reputation.
In short, there is really good reason to name gadflies after a creature which stings--they bring social and psychological pain. It's no wonder the people of ancient Athens put Socrates to death for being a gadfly!
But I want to point-out that people can have good reason to seek challenge and humility. We cannot reach our full potential without challenge, and we will be blind to certain truths if we lack humility. The wife of a gadfly told me why she stayed married to him: "Because I know what I can do, and what I can't do. The world needs trouble-makers because the rest of us don't have what it takes to fix the world without them." She didn't need to be humbled herself, but sought humility for the rest of the world.
Elsewhere I have suggested that our ability to relate to God depends upon relationship skills honed relating to humans. I wouldn't call God a "gadfly", but one cannot help be humbled upon confronting God's true nature. If we cannot tolerate intimacy with gadflies, how can we tolerate intimacy with God? On the flip-side, gadflies seeking someone with whom they can share emotional intimacy may be wise to look among the reverent. Those who can be intimate with God have the skills to be intimate with a gadfly.
I have been wondering what kind of husband and father a gadfly can be (the question humbles me). On the one hand, the wife and children of a gadfly are likely to be more humble and better able to face challenge. On the other hand, they may become overwhelmed with expectations, or may fear intimacy and transparency, having been stung.
The Gadfly Dad may suppress his true nature much of the time, fostering shallow relationships so as to avoid creating discomfort, but he cannot truly be a part of his family if he hides from them forever. One can only pray that such families find reconciliation, and that the fruits of their efforts include greater intimacy with God.