“The one who commits themselves to the task of helping people really enter into doubt, unknowing, and ambiguity needs to be ten, twenty, even a hundred times better than those who sell certainty. They have got to be prepared to walk a difficult and often a dangerous path if they wish to invite people into this murky and uncertain world, for doing so they bring to the surface a whole host of anxieties that we spend so much of our time and resources repressing”~ Peter Rollins
I think as we grow to accept our humanity, with all our emotions of happiness, sadness, peace and doubts, we tend to relate to others who are open and authentic. Recently, I was reading this blog, and I can relate to the writer in this observation:
“In the past decade, I have read more than my fair share of self-help books.
Though I’ve enjoyed the ones with countless action steps and workbook sheets to change my life, I’ve felt the most moved and inspired by honest, personal stories of overcoming adversity.”
I myself felt most moved and inspired by honest, personal stories of overcoming adversity whenever I read inspirational materials because I find that I can relate to them better in the light of my own experiences, and take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in facing my own struggles and doubts. It also inspires me to come to terms with my own feelings, and form my own conclusions and find my own answers in life, instead of feeling obliged to follow a certain formula.
I also agree with the interviewee in the blog on this:
“I was also worried that I’d come off as self-indulgent, but all of my teachers explained that healing from my own pain would make me more compassionate to the suffering of others. I try to build that awareness all the time now.”
Yes, healing from my own pain also enables me to be more compassionate to the suffering of others, and I am also learning to build that awareness all the time now.
Here’s sharing this blog, which I learnt about the differences between a leader and a friend.
“The reality is that I am no wiser than them; I just happen to publicize the things I observe and learn on a given day. And much like them, I sometimes need a little help accessing the answers within.
Maybe that’s what it means to really help people—to help them help themselves.
None of us has it all figured out, and maybe we never will.
Acknowledging this, to me, is the difference being having followers and friends. With followers, you lead the way. With friends, you support them in discovering it for themselves.“
I think it is perhaps unfortunate that in the christian circles, a number of preachers tend to see themselves more as leaders than as friends. As a result, they think they have to lead the way all the time, and end up telling the congregation what to do (or believe). Such sermons usually become dry and formulaic, as in reality there are no seven steps to achieving a better life and becoming happy. Also, from what I heard in a church institution, the preacher feels that he should look happy the moment he steps up on stage, regardless of what went on in his own life, whether it be an argument with his wife earlier that morning before going to the church building or some other challenge, so that he will be able to focus on preaching a faith-inducing sermon to help raise other people’s faith.
I feel that while this might be well-intentioned at first, it can inadvertently become a subtle form of legalism because the people in the congregation may feel that they also have to follow the preacher’s example and act as if they have faith all the time. It can become a performance-based living, and instead of helping people in the long run, it may even cause some people to feel disappointed with themselves for not being able to match the preacher’s level of faith.
Perhaps a better way for preachers/teachers to help people is to treat them as friends rather than as followers, by giving them the space and time to discover the way for themselves. For example, Rob Bell prefers to let people think for themselves and come to their own conclusions about their faith instead of giving them certain answers to follow without questioning. I think that is a better way of helping people help themselves, so to speak.
After all, we all are already spiritual and we don’t need to become spiritual. I realise our journey in life is to become more human instead – to embrace our humanness in all its fullness.
I think one reason that christian evangelical preachers tend to focus so much on faith is not because they have a lot of faith themselves, but because they are trying to have faith in their own lives. In other words, I am beginning to think that the “faith movement” is actually motivated by fear. This is somewhat ironic because one would think that if a preacher talks a lot about faith, it means he is a man of great faith. This is not necessarily so, because when I looked back at the sermons I used to listen to, I recalled that the preachers tend to use old testament examples, such as how the children of Israel could not enter the promised land because they did not have faith and doubted their “god”. So maybe these preachers were afraid that they also could not enter the promised land themselves because they thought the promised land was referring to a physical place called heaven.
Yet I have come to learn that we are all already in the promised land – it is the kingdom of heaven within us, not some physical place to go to after we die. In fact, I realise there is no such distinction between “believers” and “unbelievers” today because these are only labels in the old covenant mindset. When the old covenant of law system became obsolete in AD70, the symbolic lake of fire would destroy all the old Adamic identities that existed in the separation mindset, including “fearful, unbelieving, murderers, etc”. In the new covenant mindset, there is only one true identity – Love. We no longer see one another (and ourselves) from the worldly point of view, for the old has passed away, and the new has come – we are all new creations, made in Love’s image, and our minds are renewed to see this truth restored in our lives.
Faith, then, is not something we do or have; faith is who we are. So, in our day and age, our “faith” does not make us “believers”, and our “doubt” does not make us “unbelievers”. Since every human being would experience ups and downs as well as moments of faith and doubt in real life, it doesn’t mean that each person keeps changing from “believer” to “unbeliever” and back again. Hence, the labels “believer” and “unbeliever” are simply man-made concepts. To me, the truth remains that we are all spiritual beings on a human journey, and whether we experience faith or doubt, happiness or sadness, etc does not change the truth that we are all beloved children of God/Unconditional Love/Universe.