I have shelves of self help books I don’t look at much: coaching and diet books included. In my younger years I thought that if I applied the textbook to my life, and like the psalmist clung to the word, all would be well. There were two problems with this: firstly, no one can cling to the word by their own strength: I was deluding myself. And secondly, you can’t eliminate risk and defeat.
I find it interesting that in this odd part of the digital archipelago there are bunch of repentant men. Some are married or remarried. Some, like Roosh, are single. But all have been through defeat. Defeat is where you learn: you don’t want it: you want to succeed. Defeat is so avoided by many that some will not put themselves at risk of defeat and instead only do things that are loaded in such a way that they would win.
But you don’t learn when things go well. You learn when things go badly.
From the time I graduated college until the peak year of 2011, I don’t remember doing even a single minute of spiritual introspection. My god was the material world and my scripture was self-help and psychological books that would help me win some more. I believed that life was what I made of it, and I made it to be about fornication, because fornication made my body feel good. I thought the party would last until I died.
Sometimes I wonder, would it have been possible for a Christian missionary to successfully convert me during those times? Would I have been interested in hearing how placing my faith in Jesus Christ would allow me to enter into Heaven instead of experiencing a sexual heaven on earth? No, it would not have been possible. My pride was too high and my heart too hard on spiritual matters. I would have politely thanked the missionary for the attempt and bid him farewell. I didn’t need a god—I was doing just fine on my own, though ironically this was the time that I needed God the most.
Until you are defeated by the world, you will not be able to transcend it. Until all of your theories, lifehacks, and systems fail you—and they all will—and you lose faith in your own abilities, you will not put faith in God. Until you experience a void in your heart through the loss of a family member or friend, you will not allow Christ to enter it. It’s no accident that most men in their early 20s have no need for God, because they are sure they will win without Him, but the moment of truth will one day arrive, for it arrives for all men, at a time they don’t know beforehand, and at this personal moment of revelation, it will be painfully obvious that there will be no winning in this life. Then they can either lie to themselves and double down on the wrong path, getting even more involved in intoxication, fornication, greed, pride, and other sins, or they can admit that they were wrong, that they acted the fool, and allow God’s loving grace to supplant their corrupted desires.
The wisdom of this world is a wisdom of victory. It does not count the people left behind on the road to success: it demands success. It expects perfection. It is judgemental, cruel and jealous. There is an assumption that this life is a zero sum game: if my neighbour succeeds then I must have lost. This is not the case. I can rejoice in my neighbours success, and he can rejoice in mine.
But that requires two unfashionable virtues: prudence and humility.
13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
One of the real issues we have in the church is credentialism. Because you take a young man of God and you don’t get him doing stuff — like looking after the foodbank, growing his home group, and working out with the boys, holding down a job, and learning how to lead. You take him, untested (the real test is raising kids until the age of five and staying married and productive while exhausted) and send him to theology school where he gets a diploma and loses the ability to talk with working people.
You fill his head with knowledge. I have nothing against knowledge, but knowledge is not wisdom. And too often, he starts butting heads and causing division. I will confess to doing that myself. Then I got defeated. Badly.
Pride does come before a fall, and it’s best to put your pride in the woodshed and work on your skills before you do fall. Your diplomas are not what God wants. He wants you to be pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and doing good things. As he wants me.
Here we all need to work. For this world loves its diplomas, and the debt enslavement they cause. We were never called to be like that.