Last week’s post told the wonderful story of a monk who both cursed and praised a tomb of a dead person. The point was to show what it meant to acquire a spirit of dispassion in living the spiritual life. The writer of last week’s story said something important:
“Indeed, I would go even further and say that acquiring dispassion is the most important and urgent challenge of the spiritual life. If we want to mediate true spiritual healing in this world of ours, each of us needs to seek freedom from those forces—biological, psychological, emotional, social, national, ideological and even religious—that would subject us to their wills and ultimately, pit us against one another.”
We need to live an ascetical life (not just for monks) to acquire a spirit of dispassion. As a result, we will not be motivated by outside forces, and we will be at peace whether praised or condemned. This is an important virtue that needs to be formed in us. If we don’t by the grace of the Holy Spirit acquire this virtue, we will not able to sort out the polarities of life we now encounter. We will not be able to help our children, as they get older to navigate them as well.
So as this spirit of dispassion grows in us, I have the following thoughts to offer on the tensions we are now encountering in this world over such things as the virus and ideological differences.
- The truth can be tested. Any time we read things, we should not be afraid of or immediately react to someone’s point of view. We should be able to listen, even if we don’t agree, and make sure we understand what the person is saying. The truth will always prevail and can stand the test of scrutiny. We should not be thinking about how we will respond to someone with our own “come back.” We aren’t really listening if we do. Respond first by seeking clarity: make sure that you understand what the speaker intends to say. This is active listening. If anything, we should then begin asking questions such as, “On what do you base what you are saying? What objective facts do you have to support your views on this issue?”
- Be wary of any statements on an issue designed to elicit an emotional response. We should not be controlled by our emotions but proceed by a clear thought process. There is a big difference between “I think…” and “I feel…”
- In cases where someone’s presentation is calm and seemingly convincing on the surface (not appealing to one’s emotions):
- What credentials does a person have to speak on the topic at hand? Just because someone is a doctor or a health care professional (and they are speaking on the coronavirus), do they have the necessary expertise to do so?
- Does a “medical presentation” just present a point of view, whose “facts” are not submitted to the larger medical community for verification? Is there evidence that other sources, through their own research, have been able support the facts presented?
- Does a presentation claim exclusivity? In other words: “I am the only one that has the answers, and everyone else has it wrong. Listen to me if you want to know the truth.” This is a red flag that should cause us to be concerned.
- Is there an agenda in the presentation? One may start off with a presentation on Covid-19 and its proper care and treatment. But then the presentation ends up making policy statements on what churches and civil authorities should do based on facts that may be questionable. Or the person has a book that is about to be published. That is why a person may be using social media; he or she seeks to market a story so people will buy the book.
We need to be careful of presentations that claim to be truthful but have been discredited by other reputable sources. The only way this can be done is by doing our own research and learning more about the topic at hand. As our Lord told His disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) I will speak more on this verse from Matthew in next week’s note.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you, Christ is risen!
The unworthy +Paul