Sunday, July 27, 2008

Finding yourself outside the box

When people think of the spiritual journey, they often think of it as a search for God ... which, of course, it is. But it is also a search to find yourself - the true self, the person created in God's image.

You might assume that if there's one thing you know, it's yourself. After all, you're the one who thinks your thoughts, feels your emotions, moves your hands and feet. How could you not know who you are?

But we pick up many cues about who we are from the boxes that other people put us in. To your employer, you are a skill set. To your teenager, you are an ATM. To your church, you are a pledge unit. Now, we always hope that we are also seen as more than the box: That the employer understands your need for meaningful work and a humane working environment. That the teenager enjoys spending time with you. That the church sees your worth as a child of God, not just as a potential committee member with a fat wallet.

You are more likely to see yourself outside their boxes if you have experienced unconditional love - from parent or spouse or friend or the Sacred Presence. Because that's what unconditional love does: It tears down the boxes and frees you to be yourself.

That came to mind when I read Pete's responses to the previous post (thanks to all for the civil discussion!). Pete wrote that shaming children and labeling them sinners is a poor way to instill good behavior. I agree. How much better it is to point out that a specific behavior harms the child or others and to say, "You are better than that. This action betrays who you really are."

Children need guidance and instruction, certainly! But we can give them the freedom to be good not out of fear but because it is the way of love - a love they experience as life-giving.

Thoughts?

57 comments:

Iztok said...

Jane: "How much better it is to point out that a specific behavior harms the child or others and to say, "You are better than that. This action betrays who you really are.""

This is so true! When one raises a child from newborn it might not be so obvious but when one has only few months or years to correct the damage done to your child by others it becomes pretty obvious. My daughter (adoption should be final this week! yay!) still has spells of anger attacks to the point that needs to be taken to the ER, hospitalized and/or police has to be called (or all of the above). When she is calm we recently had a discussion on why she acts like that. She said she doesn't know but she gets angry and can't stop being angry and self destructive (she is a cutter). I asked her what her previous parents did to help her with her anger and lashing out and she said nothing. Told me that all they did is severely punish her (biological mom would physically abuse her from spanking to bashing her head against floor or furniture, foster/adoptive parents would get her severe grounding, withhold things from her etc.). When I've asked her why she doesn't care for the consequences of her actions, she told me that she is already going to hell for drinking, doing drugs and other things so why would she care at that point.

That is where it clicked. She was physically and mentally abused by parental figures of her past to the point that she didn't care. Her behavior is more of a result of failed parenting then her failure. Physical abuse is fairly easy, since we don't subscribe to it at all (so no spanking or other things) and plastic surgeon was able to partially fix some scars from her past. Recovery from mental abuse is more difficult. Undoing years of "you are going to hell" is hard. Not impossible, but doable task. I like few books to help like, "Adopting the Hurt Child" and "Parenting Beyond Belief" are good source for me. Both highly recommended.

Lisa E said...

I admit it - I taught (and continue to teach) my kids that they in common with all humans have a fallen nature. They are 18 and 16 now and they have never quaked in fear before me even though I did spank them when they were younger. My kids are joyful, cheerful, loving life, loving Jesus, loving family and friends and caring for their community. They certainly are not perfect, but then again they were raised by imperfect parents who also have a fallen sin nature. They aren't fragile creatures who go to pieces when their world is rocked and they don't slouch around malls wearing the bored teenager sneer. I think they've turned out pretty well so far and I'm very proud of them.

Instead of simply assuming that the idea of human fallenness can ONLY be communicated in an angry, condemning and demoralizing way, consider the myriad ways and contexts that a conversation about the sin nature might take place.

For example, I can remember a conversation when my oldest was 4 when she disobeyed me on something that she had been disciplined about before. She wondered aloud why it was so hard for her to obey me. We had a very good, loving, age-appropriate conversation about the human heart and what temptation is and how hard it can be to do the right thing and that we need a Savior. I remember that conversation because it represented a turnabout in our relationship. She was at an age where she was challenging my authority a lot and our relationship had been becoming increasingly adversarial. But that day we really related to each other as 2 sinners who need a Savior and we left that conversation both of us full of hope and peace and love and appreciation for the Lord and for each other. My daughter remembers that conversation to this day because that was when the gospel really clicked for her.

Human falleness is the bad news, but you don't end with the bad news. The gospel is the good news - that God in his great mercy has reached out to us to save us through the shed blood of his Son. He's done for us what we could never do for ourselves and he has attained for us what we could never earn for ourselves through our own good behavior. So - ok, I did teach the kids that they are sinners, but I didn't stop there. I also taught them about grace and I think they have benefitted from it.

Gamecock said...

Amen Jane, and I am glad you made a separate bog for this matter because I think the way Pete framed his opinion, as juxtaposed against mine, caused my view to be distorted.

I am a person that was raised in the Southern Baptist Church and with unconditional love from my Mom, Dad and Grandmother.

I was spoiled!

In fact, it was not being prepared for all three to be gone 7 years ago that has so hurt me. Mother died when I was 17, but Grandmother died 11 years ago and then in 2000, Dad was gone, and my whole life was wrapped around family. My wife left me while dad died of Cancer and I thing one reason I married her was due to the bad health of my dad and GM. I also married for to raise the 5 and 6 yr old step kids as my natural child died in childbirth in my first marriage.

WHEW!, that said,

My self worth at its base came from this familial unconditional love plus God's unconditional love.

I never remember being browbeat with the doctrine of original sin. I remember hearing the doctrine as a child and thinking, "yes, I know me and I know that I sin and that I shouldn't" and that God still loves me and even died for me, gave me an extreme feeling of security.

I think Pete's example of a teacher and a class was a caricature that mis-states the issue, though it makes a good point. The fact is that his example is simply not real.

I would say that I think lots of people use the Church as an excuse for their own failures. I don't deny that some people in the church misinterpret scripture and go overboard, but all too much gets blamed on same by people looking for a scapegoat for their own failures and resentment at the fact they know God makes demands and they don't like them

See CS Lewis and the Law of Human Nature.

http://www.lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt

Anonymous said...

Iztok- There is a special place in heaven for one for someone who adopts a troubled child like you have. Yeah, I know you don't believe...I don't either... but this is the type of act that makes the world a better place.

Lisa E said...

Oh, and one other thing!

Whether a person is inside or outside of "the box" depends very much on what box you're talking about. If you are a person who gives yourself a lot of props for rejecting dogma in favor of a more freeform belief system, then yes, you may be outside of the evangelical box, but you may also be very much inside the "I'm-spiritual-but-not-religious-whose-to-say-what-religion-is-right?" box. If you talk to 100 people who fit into that category, I'm pretty sure you'd find them in lockstep agreement on a wide range of issues. EVERYONE is conforming to something.

Also, this paragraph:

"You are more likely to see yourself outside their boxes if you have experienced unconditional love - from parent or spouse or friend or the Sacred Presence. Because that's what unconditional love does: It tears down the boxes and frees you to be yourself."

is pure Oprah. I don't know that I've been loved unconditionally at every moment of my life, but I can't think of a single moment when I wasn't myself. For good or ill....

I hope I'm communicating in a gracious way - I just really, really, REALLY struggle with mushy Oprah-speak. To me, it's just empty calories.

Gamecock said...

You ought to see the recoveries from the "no matter what you do, there is no judgment or punishment, message.

See Stalin and Mao.

Iztok said...

Gamecock: "You ought to see the recoveries from the "no matter what you do, there is no judgment or punishment, message.

See Stalin and Mao."

This is good variant of Godwin's Law. (No Hitler this time, but close.)

Pete said...

The only unconditional love I've ever known is from God. He loves me just as I am and no matter what I do. This does allow me to explore myself, the corners of my mind; to let loose, and to be all that I am. I've known that God allows me to do this, but I've never thought that he encourages me to do so. Thank you, Jane, for helping me to see this.

Iztok said...

Pete: "The only unconditional love I've ever known is from God."

Pete, I am so sorry that your parents didn't show you unconditional love. Life must be tough when one doesn't feel any unconditional love from anyone. I guess I am lucky that my parents were the source of unconditional love. They weren't/aren't the only ones however. There is also my sister and my dogs.

I would recommend you to adopt a dog from a shelter and nurse it and take care of it and I am sure it will show you true unconditional love very soon.

Pete said...

Thanks for your concern, Iztok.

A dog's love wouldn't mean much to me because it couldn't much know me. God knows me more than I know myself.

Iztok said...

Pete: "A dog's love wouldn't mean much to me because it couldn't much know me."

I can guarantee you that if you would invest as much time and trust into your dog you would feel the same towards and reap the same rewards as with god. I bet you $100 that praying to dog would yield the same results as praying to God when comes down to it. One noticeable difference however that dog is real for sure.

The Heretic said...

Let’s see, now. God will accept me into his kingdom and grant me eternal life, and all I have to do is accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Sounds like a good deal, but it also seems that someone is imposing a condition. Therefore I conclude that God, at least the Christian one, loves us conditionally. Therefore how can someone claim to have experienced that God’s unconditional love?

I think that if the same God just said “I love you simply because you are mine - no exclusions, restrictions or conditions implied” (period), then we can look outside His box and be free to be ourselves without all the restrictions imposed by organized religions.

Pete said...

Iztok,

It appears you've never known the love of God.

I can trust a dog to do only what it can. Since a dog can't know much of me, it's not able to love much of me. God knows all of me and loves all of me.

Iztok said...

Pete: "It appears you've never known the love of God."

And I bet you $100 you didn't either. There is nothing tangible in any way, shape or form that you can surely say it is God and not something else or another variant of deity (Allah for example).

"Since a dog can't know much of me, it's not able to love much of me. "

Again, I bet if you treat dog the same way as you treat God for one year you will see the exact same results in your life. Dog can do immeasurably more thank you're granting it. You are confining dog into a box, you need to think outside the box. You are the one limiting dog's abilities.

Pete said...

Heretic,
I agree, except in your third paragraph I'd leave out the "simply because you are mine" qualifier.

Pete said...

Iztok,
Do you really want to convince me that the only unconditional love I've ever known doesn't exist? What if I killed myself in despair?

Iztok said...

Pete: "Do you really want to convince me that the only unconditional love I've ever known doesn't exist? What if I killed myself in despair?"

Well for what we know for sure if you kill yourself you will be dead. All the rest is speculation at best.

Many people hear voices in their heads. In most cases they are associated with some mental problem. Do we tell them that voices are not real and treat them or do we let them being delusional? That is a moral dilemma yes.

I am not saying you change, I am just saying to give dog a try the same way you gave God a try. If it is true what you claim about God he will understand and love you unconditionally never the less (unless you think that God's love will stop if you start worshiping dog? in that case God's love is not unconditional). As I said, I am willing to bet $100 that you treating dog as you treat God (pray, worship, ...) and feed etc. will yield at least the same results (your prayers will be answered with the same frequency). You just don't need to put dog in a metaphorical box. Give it a chance to work and you will see results soon.

Anonymous said...

Miss Pope can MASONS and Eastern Star be a part of the church or are they being Hypocrytes? Some Ministers are saying the Shriners and Masosn and Eastern Star worship false Gods. Can we worship as many Gods as we want ?

Anonymous said...

Jane I dont want to BROIL in Hell and I heard its stuffy down there and I have ASTHMA; Jane how can I get to Heaven the easy way instead of cussing People out in Charlotte because they hurt my feelings here.

Anonymous said...

Jane will Jews make it to Heaven I know they are Gods chosen People and so are ARABS if you read the Old Testament; Even the ARABS are doing well because they are Gods chosen People as well. How about American Indians do we have a little corner of Gods heart ; Many experts think AMERICAN INdians are one of the 12 lost tribes of Isreal. We had a lock on the Promise land but the white devil took it away. Now we have been paid back through reperations and Harrahs. So we are good with this. Will Indians see Paradise.

Pete said...

Iztok,
Why would I want to imagine a dog knowing and loving all my thoughts? I have that with God. Give me $50,0000 and I'll do your experiment.

Iztok said...

Peter: I am just saying that God is not the only option to achieve the same results. Dogs can achieve the same thing and more.

I offered you the experiment merely for intellectual honesty sake. More to help you but in order to do that one must be willing to help himself first. Now I understand (having first hand experience with Christians, Jews and Muslims) that sometimes people are content with what they have (i.e. Muslim women constrained in their veils etc.). It doesn't mean life is not better outside the box.

Pete said...

If a dog did what God does and doesn't do what God doesn't do, then the dog would be God. Anyway, I'm glad I don't have to clean up God's poop.

I've been outside the "God loves me unconditionally box." You said you've never been outside the "God doesn't love me unconditionally box." I think life would be better for you if you gave it a try.

Gamecock said...

Is atheist or dog evangelism appropriate to this site, much less related to the present topic?

I don't think so.

Gamecock said...

I disagree Heretic

A gift is offered. We can accept the gift or not. God will not shove it down our throats.

If you want to call acceptance a condition, then fine. The point is that we can choose to be our own God and reap what we, as God can fashion, or, we can accept our Creator's plan. Why would a person who rejects God, want God. Oxymoron. The people that will have eternal life and be transformed into Sons of God are those that want fellowship with God.

Gamecock said...

Anon

Its not easy to give up the lordship of one's life until we realize that by insisting upon a state of being we were not made for, we are, in fact, a slave to sin.

Those who inhabit Heaven will be those that want to let God be their Lord.

Gamecock said...

Anon

Any person that accepts Jesus Christ as Lord by faith will inherit eternal life. In Hebrews and elsewhere, God says that faith in God is what justifies. It does not matter if they are Jew or gentile.

Gamecock said...

Is $50K, approx $7K or $350K in dog money?

Lisa E said...

Pete -

You've been punked! Iztok has lured you into this moronic conversation and you have gamely taken the bait. Bail out already and let him have the last word and then you'll just have to trust God for the result.

Pete said...

Things happen whether or not they are believed in or known about. A tree falling in the woods doesn't need to be believed in and known about in order for it to have fallen. Christ saving the world through his death and resurrection doesn't need to be believed in or known about for it to have really happened.

A man badly hurt in a car accident, in a comma and needing an organ transplant, doesn't need to know how the doctors saved his life when he regains consciousness. He can walk out of the hospital never meeting the doctors, never thanking them.

Iztok said...

"A tree falling in the woods doesn't need to be believed in and known about in order for it to have fallen. Christ saving the world through his death and resurrection doesn't need to be believed in or known about for it to have really happened."

Yet there one can find evidence of fallen trees, which is more than we can say about your second example. We know trees fall because we've been able to observe it. People have videos of fallen trees and ample other evidence. We only have hearsay when it comes to Christ. (Pretty much as much as we have about Invisible Pink Unicorn and Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Gamecock said...

Lisa E

Agreed re lured into said conversations. Rush Limbaugh warns against this, and it was Jane's opening paragraphs to this blog that reminded me of the Limbaugh light to avoid same.

Gamecock said...

The universe itself, the Bible, the Church and the law of human nature CS Lewis speaks of are evidence. Some give them more weight than others, but they are evidence.

Lisa E said...

Aren't there people who actually attend seminars that teach how to disrupt these kinds of conversations by introducing all these rabbit trails? I don't listen to Rush, but I've heard Hugh Hewitt call them 'seminar callers'. Hey, maybe Pete and Iztok are in it together. IT'S A CONSPIRACY!!!!!!!

Iztok said...

"The universe itself, the Bible, the Church and the law of human nature CS Lewis speaks of are evidence. Some give them more weight than others, but they are evidence."

Evidence of what?

How would universe, Bible and Church look like if it would be a natural phenomena (in case of universe) and man made (in case of Bible and Church)? Would they look exactly like they look now? Sure would.

Bob said...

It is a sad day when it falls to me to return to topic, but here goes: Is it really kinder to constantly tell children that they have failed to live up to (what you think) are their own best selves than it is to tell them they have failed to live up to Somebody Else's standards? Especially when Somebody Else is nice enough to admit that His standards are impossible anyway and gives them a pass at the End of the Day? Stick with Because I Said So as the Reason for Everything is my advice. That way, when they rebel against everything you ever taught them, at least you know you have sent them off in the right direction.

Gamecock said...

Bob

Yes, that was my Dad's and my method for small children and even as teens, coupled with the "as long as you live in this house."

But I am unaware of any "constant" ripping to shreds about original sin. The original sin doctrine of the Bible, simply is, and it forms part of the basis for the need to repair one's alienation from God to have eternal life.

Bob said...

Gamecock:

Point well taken. Because I Said So and Original Sin may not be the best answers, but they do save time, that's for sure.

Pete said...

My parent's also answered, "Because I said so" when I asked why I should do something. My Dad one time held up a butter knife and told me, "If I say this is a fork, it is."

I don't think we should tell kids to change their behavior without explaining why. The explanation shouldn't be, "because I said so" or "because I expect it" or "because Somebody Else expects it." It should be the real reason. If we don't have time to explain, then we shouldn't be parents.

The statement, "I think you can do better if you want to," would be encouraging.

"You are better than that," and "This action betrays who you really are," are risky because if the kid is doing his best and his behavior doesn't change, then the kid will identify with his unacceptable behavior.

Gamecock said...

Pete

Me and Bob's and my Dad's and Proverbs' methods were adopted when your's failed!

You know, when the child smarts off or spits out peas or starts to run into the street after being told not to.

Rather than risk the child being killed due to its hubris, the rod concentrates the mind, after which, because I said so works even better.

Pete said...

Gamecock,

Your "methods were adopted?" By who?

A child would less likely run into the street if given a real explanation of why he shouldn't than if he were just told, "because I said so."

A child smarting off to a parent does no harm except to the parent's ego.

The rod makes the child afraid and teaches violence. An explanation would be better because it encourages love, communication and independence.

Gamecock said...

Pete

Your naivete is rather refreshing and sweet, but

When "real" explanations fail and the child is a few feet from the speeding car, immediate action is required and usually an act to really concentrate the mind on reality.

Gamecock said...

Pete

Raising a civilized child requires that they be taught to show respect for elders, beginning with the parents. It has nothing to do with ego.

This process must begin before their verbal reasoning skills are fully developed and even after if they persist even after reasoning sessions.

Been there.

They do persist.

Pete, you imagaine a utopia that hasn't existed since, well....ever, since Eve bit the apple before Cain and Abel were born.

Anonymous said...

A relationship with God is based on His conditions. He pointed out His Son, Jesus Christ, and said "Hear ye Him." Jesus was here on planet Earth and there is much evidence of that.

If some choose not to communicate with God, that is their choice. He will not make them accept His Son.

I can say that I have had many answers to prayer, some in such manner that no human could have done it, so I believe in prayer.

Iztok said...

Anon: "Jesus was here on planet Earth and there is much evidence of that."

No there is not. There are a lot of stories. But then again there are a lot of other stories. That is it. I've been to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. There is no real physical evidence, things there are practically fabrications.

By your definition of "evidence" Flying Spaghetti Monster is real as well.

Gamecock said...

Iztok

Praise the Lord! Finally a comment on point with the subject!

Not

Same old same old.

ZZZZZZZZZ

Iztok said...

Gamecock, like your Stalin and Mao was on the topic!

Go pass the ammunition because that is usually how your "praise the lard" ends up.

pornstudent said...

Our true self is animal. Knowing we are not separate from the rest of Nature is joyous, liberating and the beginning of wisdom. The idea that humans are defective is a box that should be destroyed.

There is no unconditional love from Dictator God. Nature doesn't love us, but it accepts us as we are. Knowing we are Nature gives us the freedom to be ourselves.

Bob said...

But what if you're a jerk?

Gamecock said...

In Nature, rape and murder are commonplace and not "wrong" by Nature's standards (see none). Females don't fare so well in nature. Right?

Or is "Nature" a synonym for Leftist?

Please actually answer questions. Seriously.

Bob said...

Yes. Answer seriously. And don't forget to explain why we need bug spray.

pornstudent said...

If you would rape and murder if not for your Dictator God, stay in your box. Many are called, few are chosen.

Gamecock said...

Bob

Was the bug spray question for me? If so, talk to me like a five year old and explain it! and even if its not for me! LOL

Gamecock said...

Our "true" self is animal. Watch animals. They rape and murder at will. Humans did as well, before civilization.

Overcoming animal nature is what elevates us.

To do what is against that animal nature. The ultimate evolution is to become a son of God by the process God initiated in Eden and, in the fullness of time, completed on the cross and in the resurrection.

By what I call "cosmic calculus" God had to become man to "infect" humanity thru the shedding of his blood so that he can fellowship with us in holiness.

more later

Gamecock said...

Our "true" self is animal. Watch animals. They rape and murder at will. Humans did as well, before civilization.

Overcoming animal nature is what elevates us.

To do what is against that animal nature. The ultimate evolution is to become a son of God by the process God initiated in Eden and, in the fullness of time, completed on the cross and in the resurrection.

By what I call "cosmic calculus" God had to become man to "infect" humanity thru the shedding of his blood so that he can fellowship with us in holiness.

more later

Bob said...

No, Gamecock, my question was for the other guy. If Nature "accepts us as we are," why do we need bug spray when we go in the woods? There are a lot better ways to be eco-inclusive, if you ask me. But I thought I'd give Nature Boy his shot before I made a stink about it. In my opinion, anybody who thinks Nature accepts us as we are is too young and inexperienced to have a beer gut.

By the way, I think there is some debate about murder-rape in the natural humanoid state, based on conflicting observations of chimps (killers) and bonobos (sexaholics). But it would take more than a five-year-old vocabulary to discuss it. Also, doesn't your Dictator God permit Free Will? Mixed signals -- that might be our whole problem right there!

pornstudent said...

By "accepting us as we are" I mean Nature doesn't (except ourselves) think we are defective and born sinful.

Everything is Nature, including our trash, asphalt, civilizations, religions, wars, morality, the idea of sin and feelings of unworthiness. I don't like everything, but I usually let others be themselves as long as they aren't hurting anyone I care about or getting in my space. I often use bug spray.

I know I've been putting people commenting on this blog in boxes. Some of you have chosen to be in certain boxes and you like them. But I've made them much smaller than they really are. All the polls, surveys, politics, platforms and generalizations from authors and preachers cause us to pigeonhole each other and ourselves. I'll try to do better.