I feel the need to explore some tensions between the my faith and what might be deemed ‘self-help’.
Around the time I started this blog, I was consuming content, online video content in particular, in the spectrum of entrepreneurship/business development, sales and management, self-improvement, and psychology. During that time, that whole genre of personal development was greatly helpful to me. What has changed?
You have to consider where I was personally at that time. I believed the right things theologically, but I needed some healing and development personally. I was also suffering from isolation spiritually. Yeah, I actually had a few real spiritual friendships in that small town, but we had given each other all that we could give each other at the time and I needed some fresh perspective.
There is something really good about real conversation with people who are together spiritually, but diverse in personality. A person benefits from both familiar friends, which I had, and challenging counselors, which I needed. So I found such counselors online.
The difference now is that I hunger for counsel more explicitly rooted in, and flowing out of, Christian faith. I presently have some good counsel in that regard, and I also desire to function as such counsel.
There is surely a spectrum of opinions in Christianity about psychological conditions, treatments and associated philosophies and worldviews. Personally, I believe that psychology is not a bad thing if regarded by the literal definition of the word, “the study of the soul”. I consider the soul, that is, the mind, will, and emotions, to be yet another marvelous set of systems of creation worth studying. It’s the points where psychological hypotheses stray into the philosophical and metaphysical realm that some Christians begin to have concern. Fair enough, psychology is a mixed bag in that regard.
Maybe part of the reason I have framed this in a ‘Christianity versus psychology’ way is that I have perceived pressure from the Christian side to gloss over and oversimplify issues with Bible verse quotations. Conversely, from the worldly side I feel a pressure to focus more and more on self. I think it can be helpful to give a name to a particular set of symptoms as a way of describing it or making it easier to talk about. However, there’s a difference between admitting a problem and making it your identity.
I am also not saying that God’s word is ineffective, but to one who is struggling, extra discernment might be required to communicate the Word in an effective way. Therefore, I think it is valuable to understand emotions, and thoughts, and brain chemistry; to be able to discern and really help the systems of the soul.
Finally, I will say the the ultimate cure is spiritual. However, the path from truth to experience is not often a straight one. And that’s where the call to wisdom is for Christians in this area: to help people straighten those paths.
2 thoughts on “My Disposition Toward Self-Help”
I really still continue to draw from the practical elements of wisdom in those “self-help” mentors. A couple additional thoughts. I’m no help to anyone else if I’m curled up in the corner quivering. The Bible certainly contains the way out of the chaos and paralysis, but it often seems so abstract in applicable applications that it’s hard to integrate, especially early in our journey. I suppose that is why there are, “pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc”. I might suggest that the broken nature of those functions is the very reason we have had to go outside the “church”, to try to make sense of real life struggle. Now that we’ve made it this far, I feel we need to be part of the solution. We need to lead others to the application of the Word, on real life struggle and deliverance from self-service, to be who we were designed to be, “fisher’s” of men, disciple maker’s, etc.
There is often, in my experience, a lack of mentorship, some might call it discipleship. What is a possible way forward? One way is that, in our Christian teaching/discipling: LEAVE NOTHING UNEXPLAINED. We, (I say “we” very loosely to indicate Christian conservative type people), can complain about the decay of our culture, or we can recognize the opportunity such decay presents. The opportunity is that what was once considered normal in terms of family, work, discipline, and dignity is a major revelation to more and more people in our society. ‘Normal’ is now a major revelation. Therefore, I say LEAVE NOTHING UNEXPLAINED: Why men? Why women? Why gender roles? Why marriage? Why heterosexuality? Why work? Why monogamy? Why age of consent? You can probably think of a few more. I’m not talking culture war, I’m talking about discipleship for feral people. I make that distinction because, somehow, we need to be conveyers of the gospel of Jesus Christ first, and then if someone makes that decision we have to help them discern which way is up.
Another thing I want to address, you touched on the diversity of roles in the church; pastors, evangelists, teachers, and so forth. I think there should be more distinction between each of these. I say more distinction, as opposed to a defacto system we are more familiar with, where a lead pastor, or preacher, is called upon, even hired, to perform all of these functions. Nobody wins. Not the pastor, not the people. Except Christ Himself, no one man can be all of those things. And no Sunday morning service can fill all of the needs and do all of the things meant for the body of Christ.
The church needs to not worship itself. What I mean is that maybe one of the reasons why churches have failed to meet the needs of people like you and I and other young men that I have conversations with, who meet those needs with more ‘worldly’ counsel, is that Christians become satisfied with the right spiritual language, catch phrases that preach good, and uplifting worship music experiences. Thus I say that there is a hazard of the church worshipping itself… the church becomes a culture, and then starts preaching to that culture instead of preaching to the culture.
I am trying to brainstorm ways to say this: you can be reverent AND relevent. Reverent and frank. Reverent and humorous. Reverent about God, and irreverent about many other things. Reverent and at the same time being the person in the room who says what everyone is thinking.
Finally, I do recognize that if I see a need, it might be my responsibility, or even calling, to help answer it, so, God help me.