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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“Spiritual Growth”

As most of you might be aware of, the news site, Grenada Connection, provides what they called the Religious Corner, a place where they present written thoughts they believe to be “inspiring” words to its readers and insights for them in how to deal with life’s difficulties. However, many of the opinions presented in this corner are, in my view, morally questionable, and one such advice or “spiritual guidance” entitle SPIRITUAL GROWTH is certainly one of them, and I will address problem I have with this counsel.
The author set the stage by asking the reader this question, “Are you wrestling with a personal problem...” Certainly, I think we all are, including the person asking this question. The author is also correct when he or she stated that when we overcome one particular problem, another one is waiting to take its place. However, I am not sure that having, as the author believes, problems are a bad thing. It is true that we all will like to be problem and conflict free, but the fact appears to be that this desire is not realistic. The reality is that we will always have problems and conflicts. However, the trouble is not the conflicts and the problems in themselves, but it is how we handle these problems and conflicts, and this is where I think this counsel has missed its mark. In other words, I believe the author is giving awful guidance in this instance.
Here is why. According to the author, we can only overcome our difficulty by the means of God’s grace because, as he or she claims, “Spiritual growth is a work in progress. And it doesn't come through human effort, self-condemnation, or the white-knuckling works of the flesh.” This Spiritual growth, according to the author, “comes as a result of spending time in prayer and having your mind renewed daily by His Word.”
First, I am assuming here that by “spiritual Growth” the author is speaking of overcoming our daily adversities, personal problems. Indeed, this is what the initial question seems to infer. If this is the case, then while the author is right in that one cannot “spiritually grow” (or overcome his or her problems) if one engages in self-condemnation, the author is certainly wrong in asserting that this growth cannot be achieve via human effort; it certainly takes the human being’s intervention to overcome adversities. Advising that we should just crawl into a closet, armed with a book, loaded with primitive views about the world, speaking to an unknown (mythic) deity is truly bad advice. In doing so, you are advising the individual to run away from his or her problems and not face reality. Agreeing with God does not automatically bring change to one’s conditions. The human being must first what to change and then take that step into make the change him or herself.
As I read this advice, I could not avoid remembering a story told to me by an elder, year ago. The story talks of a woman who had a huge bundle of cloths to clean. She was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity, but despite that, she managed to bring herself down to the river to clean the cloths. On her way to the river she was seen by another women who herself had clothes to be cleaned but was too lazy to act.
It was not long before the first lady returned from the river with her freshly cleaned cloths. That was fast, the second woman thought. Who helped you, she asked the first woman. God did, the first women answered and went on her way.
This answer inspired the second women to pack up her cloths and head down to the river, but upon arriving in the river, she placed her cloths down and started asking God (praying) for help, but after several hours, no help came. The cloths were in the same condition. Nothing happened. With disappointment, the second women gathered her cloths and went back home.
What is the moral of the story you ask. Well, some people put it this way, “God help those who help themselves.” However, what this story is really saying is that “the helping hand you are look for is at the end of your own arm.” It does not matter that the first woman believe she was helped by a supernatural force (God), the fact remains that she was the one who clean the cloths. It takes the human being to make the difference, and no amount of praying to a God, as the second woman in the story demonstrated, or the reading of the Bible can help us overcome our adversities and problems.
Thus, if at first you tried and fail, do not give up. Try again. This is the process of personal development; simple growing up in terms of understanding how to deal with and overcoming problems and difficulties in life, or, as the author calls it, "spiritual growth. One cannot grow if everything is perfect, and everything will not be perfect, as the human experience has taught us thus far, and, this development or "spiritual growth" cannot be achieved by running away from reality. In other words, "spiritual growth" cannot be achieved by relaying on supernatural help or allowing oneself to be stuck in a somewhat paranoiac state wherein your mind is fix daily on a God without looking at reality. Instead, to overcome our real problems and difficulties we must look to ourselves (Humanity) for the answers. In this sense, "spiritual growth" is when the human being is able to face his/her difficulties and via rationality and reason to figure out how to best deal with his/her problems and difficulties.

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