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‘Dang It.’ Moments

Have you ever had an experience with self-realization that could only be expressed with a “dang it”?

Let me give you an example:
Several years ago I was in a discussion group with other college-aged people. If I remember correctly, we were at the home of the Student Ministries Pastor at our church. I don’t remember what was being discussed, but I vividly remember something that was said. My friend told the story of his recent experience with self-realization.

“…Someone asked me, ‘do you listen, or do you wait-to-talk?’ and I thought, ‘Dang it! I always wait to talk.’ ”

When presented with this terminology, with this important distinction within the realm of interpersonal communication, my friend couldn’t help but accept new self-knowledge. And this new knowledge of self wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t horrible, but it wouldn’t allow him to continue in the same way, it forced him to reconsider how he conducts himself. And it warranted one sort of reaction:

Dang it!

I had such an experience when reading a book for review on this site.

Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics [ed. Goggin and Strobel] contains an essay by Dr. John Coe entitled, Temptations in Reading Spiritual Classics.   In this essay, Coe states:

“…the reading of the ancient spiritual writers is no substitute for a life of obedience. One great human malady of the intellect is its penchant in the fall to deceive the knower into construing that to know something is somehow to do or become that thing.”

Dang it.

Maybe I’d already heard some of this before. Maybe I was vaguely aware of the concept. But this truth stated this way led to self-knowledge.

Fallen humans tend to think if they’ve studied something they’ve actually done it.
And this self-knowledge warranted one specific reaction:

Dang it.

This is a general fact, a general worry. Coe goes on to say that those who love study and learning are especially likely to fall into this temptation. So, the self-knowledge was inescapable. I realized upon reading this that I often consider learning as an end in itself. I often consider spiritual learning as an end in itself. All too often, if I study and understand the spiritual disciplines, I slide into thinking I’ve actually practiced the spiritual disciplines. If I read about a wise response of Christianity to our consumerist culture, I think of myself as having adopted that response.

I falsely equate knowing experientially with knowing intellectually.

If Coe is right (and my experience indicates that he is), then those who frequent and give to this site are the kind of people who are especially vulnerable to this temptation.

We read deep and challenging books. We read them rapidly so that we can share the knowledge we find. We write about books. We interact with ideas and analyze ideas contained in these books. We are constantly seeking good thought, good knowledge.

And the temptation is to lose track of the doing in the midst of the learning. The temptation is to consider ourselves as having learned how just because we have an ever-growing knowledge of what.

Feel free to pause for a “Dang it” moment.

 

So what should we do?

If you find yourself in the same situation that I was in, facing new uncomfortable self-knowledge, this post isn’t going to give you a solution. I freely admit that don’t have all the answers, I am early on this journey. I read Coe’s essay about a year and a half ago and I am continually reminded of this idea, continually faced with uncomfortable self-knowledge.
And I think knowing that you are susceptible is the first step. Reminding yourself that you may be confusing intellect with experience is one way to bring yourself to true reality.

Thinking that I have already achieved humility, or patience, or wisdom, or whatever prevents me from working towards that virtue. So avoiding the temptation to think I’ve achieved that when I haven’t is a solid first step. It gives me a truer picture of who I am.

Simply internalizing this concept from Coe’s essay is a small first step toward avoiding the temptation of “construing that to know something is somehow to do or become that thing.”

 

I hope you like Brave Reviews. I hope you read many books and gain spiritual knowledge.

I hope that you also do the actions that lead to holiness.

And I hope that you don’t fall into the temptation of confusing the two.