Personal growth is never a smooth process. There are many potential pitfalls along the way which can trap people for years at a time until they see the neccesary advanced wisdom to unstick themselves. One of these that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is a concept I call “you can’t get here from here”.
Let me give you an example: Of all the most deeply spiritual people that I know, all of them have had some sort of deep crisis of faith where that have had to grapple with serious doubt and all of them have confessed to me that such struggle has been a key step in deepening their faith. I would go so far as to argue that such a crisis of faith is a neccesary step to forming a truely genuine bond of faith as it forces you to seriously grapple with your existential doubt rather than simply ignoring it. But if this is true, if a crisis of faith is a neccesary component, then you simply can’t get to having strong faith simply by having strong faith. You can’t get here from here.
You can’t get here from here is a pernicious process because the path to the goal inherently requires a leap of faith. None of my friends who went through a crisis of faith were thinking “oh good, I’m having a crisis of faith now which is Step 8 in my Good Christian handbook”, they were too busy freaking out that what they had taken for granted all their lives was being pulled out from under them. And indeed, none of them knew what they would look like coming out the other side. For some it grounded their faith, for others, it was the first steps towards atheism and for a few, it simply left them deeply confused and hurting. But for all of them, it required bravery to fully commit to the path they were on rather than staying in a state of denial. How many others were there who came on the verge of a crisis of faith but resisted because they deeply believed that the road to more faith was more faith?
I’m talking about others now because “you can’t get here from here” is a deeply personal process and it’s possible for me to see it more objectively from the outside. Examples from my own life are always messy and confusing and full of doubt but I think there are some I’m willing to tentatively put on this list:
- You can’t become truly arrogant until you’ve become humble
- I used to think being nice was about saying nice things. Then I realized that being truly nice is to think nice thoughts and to do this, you must say your nasty thoughts
- In order to master a sport to the level of being able to analyze constantly, you have to at some point, stop thinking
- You can’t be truly generous until you’ve achieve selfishness
If you don’t understand what I mean by these, they might be advanced wisdom. On the other hand, they could just be bullshit.