Have you seen it? Top Gun: Maverick is the biggest movie in the world. People and critics love it. I loved it. If you have’t seen it yet, you are behind. Catch up!
After I saw the movie, I was curious how “realistic” It was, so I watched some interviews on YouTube. One of them stood out to me. It was an interview with real-life pilots and former Top Gun instructors about how the movie stacks up against reality. They unanimously loved it, and I was surprised how much they agreed that much of it was accurate. (I’ve attached the link to the interview below.)
Late in the interview, something was said that caught my attention: The interviewer brought up the character “Hangman,” who “clearly had a very healthy ego,” and asked if he was an accurate depiction as to Top Gun pilot’s personality traits. One of the men, who had commanded a squadron, quickly agreed that fighter pilots have “massive egos,” but then he said something I found fascinating:
“Does that character (Hangman) sort of reveal it in a way that’s really, really overt and obvious? Yes. But ego usually reveals itself in a very subtle way, not by being loud and obnoxious, but by not listening. Something I saw at Top Gun a lot, and throughout my career in the private sector, is when your ego gets in the way, you stop listening.”
He went on to explain that an egotistical pilot that doesn’t listen can become a danger to the mission and his fellow pilots.
Interesting. Now, I know I am not a Top Gun pilot, but I do know a thing or two about ego, (as we all do.) I do know that it can get in the way, but hadn’t really thought much about how it impacts listening in Gospel terms.
Listening to, and acting on God’s counsel is what we refer to as obedience. Following that counsel is essential to our salvation. We ignore it at our peril.
Let’s use tithing as an example. If we listen to the Lord, we will pay our tithing. If we don’t, we won’t. Simple enough?
Nah, it’s not quite that simple.
There are two ways to look at not paying tithing:
- I know that the Lord has asked me to pay tithing, but I am too weak, stubborn, or lack enough faith to keep that commandment.
- I’ve decided that I don’t like that commandment, and don’t think I should have to pay tithing because…(insert excuse du jour here: Church has plenty of money, I don’t like the way it’s spent, I’d rather donate it elsewhere etc.)
The second option is where we get into the most trouble – when our ego dictates what counsel we are willing to selectively listen to and obey. There is a stark difference between failing to do what the Lord asks of us and deciding that we just don’t want to hear it. One is weakness, the second open rebellion. This is well-referenced in scripture. Nephi wrote in 2 Nephi 6:28.
O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
Nephi ties this to our ego when he calls us out for our “vanity,” in “supposing we know of ourselves.” That is pretty bold, to say we know more than God. In my case, I acknowledge that omniscience is still a few millennia away.
I do, however, have enough wisdom to know that I can’t substitute my ego for God’s commandments. I may not like what He, or His prophets, are asking me to do – and I may choose to not even do it – but I hope I never get to the point of self-conceit that I think that I am so freaking smart that I am willing to substitute my own “wisdom” for God’s wisdom. That is, indeed, “foolishness.”
As Captain “Stinger” told Maverick in the original Top Gun, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash,” or, for this discussion, “Your ego is writing checks your spirit can’t cash.”
The Lord revealed that in the last days, His “anger will be kindled,” and that…the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, either give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
For they have strayed from mine ordinances and have broken mine everlasting covenant.
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walks in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world… (D&C 1:14-16) “Individualism” becomes the liability.
President Henry B. Eying elaborated on listening in an address at BYU:
I know a few of the reasons why the Lord requires us to listen to mortal servants. One of the reasons is that you and I need a check on our own inspiration occasionally. We can be mistaken. We at times, even with real intent and with faith and with careful prayer, may come to wrong conclusions. Listening to others can provide correction. It can promote more careful consideration. I hope you will always remember that there is safety in counsel. (link)
I have seen many times where those who have chosen to disregard the Lord’s counsel to follow their own “personal revelation,” have simply gotten it wrong – Which an oversized ego is loathe to admit. It can be tough to come back from.
Humility is that trait that pushes back against our egos, and the idea that “we know better than the Lord and His servants.” The Spirit can help us with that – if we make it a focus.
I’m sure that all of us have people we care about that are struggling with the acceptance of God’s counsel – or are struggling ourselves. It is a real, and difficult, quandary that seems to be spreading.
It is also something that faith, repentance and the Holy Ghost can help us battle. We just have to get over ourselves so as to not endanger the mission, each other, or our own eternities. Otherwise, we – and our over-inflated egos – might find ourselves on the highway to the danger zone.
(I apologize for that last line, but you smiled – or groaned.)