Orthodox Study Journal/ Youth Journal Issue 11/ Oct. 2020
A lady came to me complaining about her son. “For the last few days”, she told me, “I had been scolding him for doing something wrong, saying, “Don’t do that.””
But he kept on answering me, “No, I will do it.”
The mother said, “I told him, ‘Dear, that’s wrong.'”
“But he insisted, “I will do this. I will do it.”
The next day, as I was joking around with him, I asked him, “What’s your opinion about what you were doing yesterday?”
He answered, “Hmm. . .I know that what I did was wrong.”
I asked him, “Then why did you insist on doing it even though you knew that it was wrong?” He answered immediately, “I had to do this, otherwise my personality would be weak! Whatever I want to do, I’ll do, even if it’s wrong!”
His answer surprised me because this was a kid who wasn’t even six years old.
Most of us can relate to this child. If we face something that does not fit into our paradigm, then we will be blind to it or simulate it into our worldview. A worldview is a set of mental paradigms with which we evaluate our experiences. It is the way we think. It is the way we look at things and process the information. Our worldview then becomes our paradigm that governs our life.
Our worldview is the result of our self-will. Self-will has damaging effects on a person that estranges and separates a person from God. It alienates him from his Creator, Whom every person is obliged to serve and obey. This estrangement is not the only consequence of self-will. Self-will also wastes all the gifts of God given to mankind freely. This is because there is no limit to human desires.
An extortionist is never content with a rate of return on loan. If possible, he would claim for himself all the riches of the world. But even this would hardly please his self-will. He would continue to pursue his self-will to the extent of attacking his own Creator. That is, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. (Psalm 13:1)”. And when anyone says that there is the no God, then it is equalling to saying ‘I have no God’, thus leading to atheism.
Our self-will is the source of all evil. We feed our self-will when we do not choose to do the things that God wills (Isaiah 65:12). We see in St. Mathew 8:26 that even the winds were obedient to the will of God.
The following arguments are the result of the worldview we form. We are always pleasing ourselves. Our self-will does not allow us to believe that everything in the world occurs by God’s command and His will. We have to accept everything that God sends us without complaint. We have to submit ourselves to His will. We are born into Orthodox families. We are responsible to live the Orthodox way of living, but we reject it by saying:
Your faith or belief is cool, but it’s just not my thing. It’s okay for you, but it’s not for me.
I’m not ready to give up things that I am doing. I don’t see anything wrong with it, until and unless I am going wayward and harming others. I am already a good person. I like things to be simple, and God is also a simple God. I do not understand your complicated orthodox faith and theology. Let me be the way I am.
These arguments are a result of the worldview of making things around us perfect without God. In other words, a utopian worldview is the only reality we perceive. Our expectations revolve only around this perception of reality. Thus, our worldview determines our expectation of reality.
Similarly, different people attempt to discover themselves in different ways. Some will derive answers from the amount of material wealth they own. Thus, they will argue that they have more value than others based on what they have. Others may base their identity on physical appearance. They go to extraordinary extremes to improve their appearance. They will argue that this could establish some sort of better self-worth and identity. Still, others will seek psychiatrists and psychologists hoping to discover who they are. For many people, they will find answers in the sciences.
So, we observe that one’s area of interest forms his/her worldview of how he/she should take his life ahead. These are inappropriate for Christians and should be rejected outright.
As he gets surrounded by noise, tension, television, radio, and continuous information about this and that, he may not realise that he is on the wrong path. He may seek to forget with drugs; not to think, not to worry never realising that he has strayed from his purpose. Thus, for most people, their belief system is that invisible force that influences their behaviour.
Our resistance towards God is because of
- Our bad habits: This happens when we develop a habit of sin for long years. From evil-will grows evil desires. When a person fulfils his/her desires often, it turns into a habit. Then the habit turns into a necessity. The habit becomes for the person a necessity and in feeding that desire, he/she becomes a slave to his/her passions. All this takes place outside of our realization. In ignorance, we do not wash away these sins through repentance. Then these become habitual sins that are hard to root out.
- Lack of patience: We become frustrated when we have an ardent desire to get something, and it fails. We immediately become angry, complain and even become like beasts. We often hear impatient people yelling: “I want this to happen immediately, and if it does not, then all hope is lost!” Patient endurance is a great virtue. It has a great power to give us our desired gift, which is to achieve the peace of Christ in our hearts, even after a very long time. Refer to Sirach 2:4, 10, 14-15.
- Our fickle will and its desires: We change our desires every hour. In the morning we desire one thing, but by evening we want something completely different. We are not the same person at any given moment. If we take the example of Job, he was a true man. St. Jerome interprets that Job did not vacillate between right and left. He was never appearing inconstant but was firm and unassailable. Whereas we, on the other hand, are not ‘true men’. We are weak and unsteady in our good deeds. If we were truly obedient to the will of God, then we would bear all our sorrows with joy and a generous heart.
It is imperative to realize that we should have spiritual qualities [ as described by the traditions of the Church and the holy fathers] to be a follower of Christ and His divine will. All of man’s desires should be in active agreement with the will of God. To this end, it is important that we examine ourselves to make sure of our stand in relation to God’s will and our will. He/she should pay attention to oneself to become adept at aligning all their desires and actions to the will of God. [An article on spiritual qualities is in the pipeline]. Once a person learns about the necessary spiritual qualities, he/she must labour to preserve them in oneself. He/she should not suppress them by their passionate attachments.
When you start labouring for such a life, an Orthodox way of life, you will be exposed to different thoughts and circumstances. These will put your current belief system into question. You are likely to experience emotions like anxiety, anger, confusion, shock and frustration with a new intensity.
In very extreme circumstances, your core beliefs get affected.
Core beliefs are those that are at the very centre of your own sense of self. These beliefs are central to who you are. Putting those into question would mean that you even start to question your own existence.
We will be able to observe that a culture shock, for example, can happen to a person who enters a different cultural environment. Culture shock is an ordinary condition that describes such a situation.
It describes a situation like this—when being exposed to a different worldview; the exposure is sudden and beyond comprehension. On a different scale, such situations force us to question some of the most central assumptions we had made about life so far.
The good news is, a disruption of your belief system is a chance for growth
Facing such a situation disrupts our belief system. We could face very negative emotions for an extended period of time such that we tend to think that there is something wrong with us.
Facing long periods of negative emotions need not be a sign that you have a problem. It is a result of external influences that question some of your core beliefs, disrupting your belief system. In such circumstances, it will take time for you to process this new information. This will go on till it becomes integrated into your belief system. Eventually, your existing beliefs will rearrange themselves. The rearrangement happens in a way that the system reaches unity once again.
That is when real personal growth happens. When we start becoming a notably different person than who we used to be. There will be a drastic change in our beliefs which people around us will notice. People may or may not be able to comprehend this change.
We claim that God is the centre of our lives. We protest that we are sincere Orthodox Christians. But we cannot deny the fact that the worldview of humanism is influencing our behaviour. It affects us visibly or invisibly. Humanism is the worldview according to which humankind is the measure of all things. Its roots lie in the evil of self-will. This is the opposite of the Christian worldview. In the Christian worldview, God is the measure of all things. God is the ultimate source of value as revealed in the Scripture, the Fathers, the sacramental Mysteries, the Liturgy and the lives of the Saints. We can make God the center of our lives only when we labor in spiritual qualities with a sincere prayer “Not my will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42)”.
Humanism is about individual autonomy. To be in charge of one’s own life and to have the freedom to make one’s own choices is the most perfect action in humanism. Humanism promotes secularisation. Secularism dilutes our way of life and true faith. It is linked to passions and, naturally, has been lurking in the Church since the beginning of its existence.
Dear youths, many times, we have the same attitude as the kid mentioned in the story. We read further the causes and effects of this attitude in our life. Most of us feel a strong personality is the one who insists on his own opinion and not others. We need to listen to those who love us especially our parents and our spiritual elders who desire for our spiritual growth.
A strong personality is the one who believes and seeks God’s will. Such a person understands that the reason for all things is the will of God. It is imperative to realise that whoever seeks another power or authority will not know the essence of God.
It’s at this point that the social struggle of Christians differs from every other struggle. The society which humanist systems (idealistic and materialistic) wish to create is anthropocentric. The means used by the humanists also are anthropocentric (man-centred). Whereas, the society of Christians is centred on the incarnate Lord. So, the means used by Christians is theocentric (God-centred).
The basis of Christian socialism (fellowship and community) is humility. Humility is the opposite of self-confidence or even excessive self-confidence. But, at the foundations of the humanist version, we find pride, self-sufficiency and the exclusion of God. This is a repetition of the sin of Adam: the quest for divinity without God.
It was said about our Lord Jesus Christ that he was “subject to them” (Luke 2:51). That is, to St. Mary and St. Joseph. And he is not only their Creator but is the Wisdom of God Himself!
Adhere to the Lord so that you may carry the spirit of humbleness. This spirit will support your will in Him and grant you the right personality. It allows you to learn to deal with each person and benefit from the experience of many!
The questions below will challenge your worldview. Each one can take up this challenge with the help of your spiritual father/priest/or a good Orthodox Christian. It provides an entry to start looking into the Orthodox Christian worldview.
Ask these questions to yourself:
- Who was I until now? Who am I right now? Who do I want to become?
- Which were my core beliefs that I am now starting to question? Why have I started questioning them?
- Are the beliefs, ideas and habits that I am exposed to recently in line with the true Orthodox way of living. Do I really want to grow towards Theosis, which is the goal of every Orthodox Christian?
- Which beliefs do I hold that are stopping me from making progress in the direction towards Theosis?
- Which environment should I expose myself to during this period, to help me grow in the direction of who I want to become? We should remember that when we were baptised, we became sons and daughters of God.
This challenge might lead to a disruption in your belief system. But as mentioned earlier in the article, A disruption of your belief system is a chance for growth, a growth towards theosis by exposing yourself to the right thoughts, words and actions of Orthodoxy through the examples of the Early Fathers and Mothers of the Orthodox Church.
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