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I read Jim Palmer’s Blog in my Outlook reader often. He always has deeply personal and real thoughts to share about life and spirituality. His book “Wide Open Spaces” is an excellent read. If you haven’t read it, you should buy it and read it.

Anyway, today, Jim, posted his thoughts on “mistakes” he has made along his journey. I like the way he frames his thoughts, not as mistakes (I wish I hadn’t done that), but “mistakes” (I am glad I learned from that). The thoughts he shares echo my own, though I am still very much in process on some of these.

I decided to share nearly the whole article below. You can find the original HERE.

What follows are a few mistakes I’ve made in my spiritual evolution and lived to tell about it. Referring to these as “mistakes” may be unfair. What I’m about to describe is fairly normal, probably unavoidable, and perhaps even necessary at the time. I own these choices as part of my journey these past few years. As it turns out, these choices didn’t defeat me. I refer to them as “mistakes” because they don’t seem to be very productive as a regular practice, and I would not intentionally repeat them again.

1. Fundamentalism

The term “fundamentalism” is probably most associated with ultra-conservative, legalistic Christians. However, I’ve discovered there are progressive/liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. What I mean by “fundamentalist” is postulating your belief system, philosophy, understandings or experiences as superior to others, which means others with different beliefs, understandings or experiences are either wrong or deceived.

In my case, I left Christian fundamentalism behind but managed to create a different fundamentalism around whatever my new understanding, concept, experience, or discovery was at the time. In other words, each step of enlightenment became the new “it” or standard that I judged others by. I wasn’t necessarily nasty or belligerent about it but there was a certain silent pride and arrogance to it.

2. Over-correction

You are driving down the street and notice you are about to go off the road into a ditch. Your reaction is to grab the wheel and by over-correcting, you fly across the road and off into the ditch on the other side. By avoiding one ditch, you managed to steer right into another. It’s no secret that any person who feels led astray and betrayed by their religion is likely to become it’s biggest critic. It’s not uncommon that in such cases the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. For example, a person lives many years under the oppression of religion. In reaction to this, they over-correct and become an Atheist. There are lots of options between a hideous concept of God and concluding there is no God at all, but when you over-correct you skid by all the stuff in the middle and just go into the ditch on the side.

By the way, please don’t hear me saying that every person’s beliefs are the result of over-correction. I know Atheists who are not guilty of over-correction – they are Atheists because they have done their due diligence and have genuinely concluded that the existence of God is neither possible nor useful. Another example may be someone who concludes that the Bible isn’t a “supernatural” book and over-corrects to the view that the Bible has no value at all. For me, I have had some instances of over-correction. For example, organized church and religious rituals were not meaningful for me, and as a reaction I concluded all organized church and religious rituals are intrinsically meaningless and has no real objective value for anyone.

3. Insecurity

Insecurity can express itself in a strong need for your beliefs and experiences to be validated by others. How do others validate your beliefs and experiences? By agreeing with or sharing your beliefs and experiences. And so it’s not brain surgery to see that people who don’t agree or share in your beliefs and experiences are a threat to your sense of identity. You feel invalidated. It’s very difficult to truly accept and learn from another as long as your need for validation is running the show. What happens is that you begin dividing people up on sides. You want people on “your side” because that makes you feel secure and validated. People on the “other side” are seen as the enemy. Needing to be “right” is often a issue of insecurity and needing validation from others. Trust me, I made a fine art out of this.

4. Laziness

I don’t mean for the word to sound as harsh as it might seem. Here’s my point. Most people want a formula or magic bullet. They are not truly willing to do their own due diligence at a soul level, and would prefer someone just give them the answer. They are hoping for a formula that promises that if you do ‘A’ then ‘B’ will happen. Paradox, mystery, ambiguity, abstraction, self-honesty, vulnerability, humility are but a few of the things many people would like to avoid if possible, and would rather just have someone figure things out for them.

All four of these smack me in the face, and bring me to my knees in repentance. These thoughts help me to realign with the eternal purpose of God in His Son, Jesus, rather than focus on myself and others in relation to me. I needed this…

I hope this will be of benefit for your journey.



4 Responses

  1. I have a question on the fundamentalism point, particularly dealing with believing something and it coming off as arrogance.

    I had a situation here recently where I stated my belief that a company’s retirement plan was risky and probably not the best of options. Someone responded that I was incredibly arrogant and that this company “knows” what they’re doing.

    In my mind, I’m like “WTF?! Can’t I have an opinion? The majority or the strong or the wise are NOT always right!” So then I go into a 1 minute explanation of economic theory and show why the company is risky if indeed it holds to the “mainstream” American economic theory.

    Suffice it to say, that comment has been biting at me for a week. How are my beliefs arrogant? Isn’t it arrogant to believe that Jesus is God? Or that Jesus is the only means of salvation?

    My question is, where does arrogance begin and certainty end? It seems to be a relativistic question because everyone has a different opinion on absolute truth and the like. So really… it seems that peoples opinions and comments of us are pointless because there is no universally defined standard of what arrogance is or is not.

  2. The way I read that point, though I fear I may be putting words into Jim Palmer’s mouth, is we should avoid developing a “system” around our beliefs which, then, pits “us” in a religious fashion against other religions.

    It is not that all beliefs have equal truth status, that is absurd; impossible, in fact. Our belief about Jesus is not a system of belief or a religion, though many, even Christians, have lowered it to such. Rather, Our belief concerning Christ brings us into a relationship with Him personally and with one another corporately, which is actually one in the same. This relationship is expressed 100% by our love for Him and one another.

    So to take that relationship and develop a religious “system”, with accompanying rites, rituals, creeds, doctrinal statements, entrance protocals, club memberships, CEOs, employees, business structures, corporate offices, and such, and call it superior to all other religions is “Fundamentalism”. BTW, these “systems” are deficient not matter the size and/or scope. The “cool” thing right now is “Simple Church”. See what we can do away with, and still be the church. I have been there. The problem is, there’s still the system and it is nearly always pitted against another system creating the same travesty. Seems funny, yet sad.

    That, my friend, is a mistake, and a mistake that I, you, and a quite many others have made, are making, and will continue to make until Jesus returns in Glory. I am glad that God is bigger than our petty mistakes and often shallow attempts to correct them.


  3. In regard to the comments on fundamentalism, I must say that while your definition of what a fundamentalist is applies to some believers, it certainly doesn’t apply to all of us. In my sphere of believers, it simply means we hold to the core beliefs of the Bible and only the Bible or the “fundamentals” of what makes Christianity unique. We are neither narrow minded, arrogant or bigoted. Quite frankly by your definition I have to wonder if you are a fundamentalist???

  4. Mike, I think you need to reread the original post and my comments. You totally and obviously missed the entire point. Rather you are being defensive over and issue that is actually not even being discussed here.

    Thanx for the commnet, though.

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