Criminal Under My Own Hat

You may be familiar with G.K. Chesterton and his famous character Father Brown. Chesterton was a prolific British writer at the turn of the 20th century. Some consider his most famous work to be Orthodoxy  which is a defense of the Christian faith. A must read for anyone who believes or is interested in the Christian faith.

 Chesterton wrote his first series of stories about Father Brown in 1911. He based the character on Father John O'Connor (1870–1952), a parish priest in Bradford who was involved in Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism in 1922. Father Brown is a humble priest as well as a very cunning detective. There are close similarities between Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown. The creators of both were contemporaries and good friends.

At one point, Father Brown describes his approach to finding the criminal. The key is not the cleverness of a well trained sleuth, but humility.

I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside the murderer. . . . Indeed it’s much more than that, don’t you see? I am inside a man. I am always inside a man, moving his arms and legs; but I wait till I know I am inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred; till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking between the blinkers of his half-witted concentration; looking up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer. 

No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.

Singer-songwriter, T-Bone Burnett captures this well in his song - Criminals. It also reminds me of John Owen's quote, "The seed of every known sin is in my own heart."

Listen to the song and scroll down to read the lyrics.


I've seen a lot of criminals
I've seen a lot of crime
Doing a lot of evil deeds
Doing a lot of time

We speak of these men as aliens
From some forbidden race
We speak of these men as animals
We will lock in a cage

But there's one man I must arrest
I must interrogate
One man that I must make confess
Then rehabilitate

There is no other I can blame
No other I can judge
No other I can cast in shame
Then require blood

I see him in the shadows down the hall
I see him in the plaster on the wall
There is no crime he cannot commit
No murder too complex
His heart is filled with larceny
And violence and sex

His heart is filled with envy
And revenge and greed
His heart is filled with nothing
His heart is filled with need

He's capable of anything
Of any vicious act
This criminal is dangerous
The criminal under my own hat

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.