Getting it before you get it. (Spiritual arrogance)

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There is an easy trend amongst faith-led people that I have been a part of and I have observed for years. I’ve often referred to it as “getting it before you get it.” In truth this is likely the very thing that most non-Christians take issue with in those who follow Christ. Even if they don’t name it the same way.

Often times when someone’s spiritual wisdom is growing they begin to see the world in new and beautiful ways. Their knowledge of scripture increases, their understanding of the divine becomes more articulate. One begins to feel as though they finally “get it” and it can be a very exciting season of life. As it should be.

For me it was around my Sophomore year of college where you wouldn’t have seen me without a book in my hand. Honestly, I probably had multiple books in my hand. I had a friend who just met me in this season of my life and thought I was such a “douche” because I always carried around books. haha! I was learning and soaking it all up and sharing these new and wonderful things with others.

I suddenly believed I had all the answers. And truth be told some people looked to me, and in ways, affirmed such an arrogance. People trusted me with information of the divine. The situation read itself as me having something other people did not. Biblical knowledge. A way to back up my beliefs. This also meant to some extent I became more obedient of these biblical beliefs. Not only could I back up why, but I actively tried to obey them.

This I believe will be true for any “new convert.” And I don’t mean someone who has just said their “salvation prayer” or whatever vice brought you into this, but someone whose actually begun to hand their life over to some sort of spirituality.

The problem however comes when you don’t understand why other people can’t see what you see.

Why don’t they get it?

How can they not understand why underage drinking is bad?

Why don’t they see as I see? What’s taking them so long?

It can be very frustrating when you see things in a certain kind of beauty that others do not. You begin to feel superior. You begin to see others lower than you. And often times, you are completely unaware of it. This is what I mean by getting it before you get it.

It happens every time you enter into any new level of your faith. However, I do not think it to be immediately a selfish and arrogant thing. I actually believe it is rooted in a desire for others to see with the beauty you see. But the plant above the ground doesn’t resemble that root. You forget how you got where you are. You forget how long that took. And you expect it to be immediate for others because this is where you are. And it’s “truth” so obviously other people should see it the same way.

I wrote about this in a grander way in my post on Christian judgement.

Because at it’s core you are judging others for not being led to the same superiority as you. You are baffled that God has not blessed them with the eyes he has so recently blessed you with.

Rather than being frustrated that others don’t see or understand the same way as you, reflect on how you got where you are. What experiences, doubts, and beliefs led you to this place. Give others stepping stones based upon where they are and let them choose what to do with them.

I asked a famous pastor (you can probably guess who) what to do in these situations. How do you help other people “see” without contributing to this type of arrogance. I really appreciated his response and have reflected on it for some time.

He said “You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.” Previously he had said: “Love means giving up control. It’s giving up the desire to change or manipulate the relationship.” Rather give yourself completely to where you are. Who you are.

He put it this way: “Bake some bread they didn’t know they wanted. Let them smell what you’re cooking. Let them see you give yourself completely to something and maybe they will want to come and taste and share in that sacred meal.”

After sitting with this for some months it really resonated as the only true approach. It removes you as the savior. It removes you from needed to change someone and allows your energies to be taken from this and devoted to your journey and learning. And perhaps that is the greatest critique anyways. If you don’t like the way someone lives or sees the world, then live more truthfully to what you believe. I think this is actually at the core of some of the biblical teachings on how to deal with enemies.

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
   In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.”

-Proverbs 25

Live out your truth in a tangible way.

“When these beginners feel in themselves such fervency and activity in devout exercises, this very prosperity (although it is true that of themselves holy things beget humility), produces in them, by reason of their imperfection, a certain ramification of secret pride, whence they begin to view their works and themselves with a certain sort of complacency. And hence, also, springs an exceeding vain desire to speak of spiritual things with others, and even, at times, to teach them rather than to learn, and in their hearts they condemn others if they do not perceive in them the sort of devotion that chimes with their own tastes, and occasionally, even, they give vent to their opinions in words, being like in this to the Pharisee who boasted of the things he did, and despised the Publican. Oftentimes does the devil increase in them the fervor and desire to perform these and other deed on purpose that their pride and presumption shall wax greater. For well does the devil know that all these actions and virtues they perform are not only worthless to them, but are rather turned into vices. And to such a length do some of these people get that they would fain non were found good save themselves; and so, by word and deed, when they meet such a one, they condemn and slander him: seeing the mote in their neighbor’s eye and not considering the beam in their own, they strain at his gnat and gulp down their own camel.”-St. John of the Cross

What drives your desire for them to see what you see? That they see you are right? (It’s a very hard question to ask yourself.) That they see you as someone ahead of them? Do you try to see what they see first? Do you make any effort to understand their sight?

Rather than try and change them and force them to see, allow them to see your truth. Make it tangible for them. Let them smell what you are cooking. I’ve found this is the best way to avoid spiritual arrogance.

-Signed a man who has fallen to such arrogance many times.

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