I Only Look Like I Know What I’m Doing

Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/

Sometimes I wonder if I’m caught between a rock and a hard place by my religion- or the lack of it. If I choose to believe that God is somehow rewarding me for being good, then I am applying the blanket assumption that everyone who suffers misfortune in this world has brought it upon themselves or somehow deserved it. If I choose to believe that God is kind to me, in spite of my apparent unworthiness, I have to ask whether or not God is still being partial in that it seems his favor doesn’t extend to those who need it most. I was born in a developed nation by no choice of my own, and in being born here I am afforded certain privileges that are not available to billions of other people. Along with the privileges, though, came a unique set of challenges, so maybe I could argue that I’ve earned my place in the world. I can’t deny, however, that I’ve had a little bit of help in the process. If there is a God, and he was in any way involved in my acquiring this “leg up” that I’ve received, then was that really fair?

Maybe, as I’m sure some of you have already decided, that there are three popular ways to solve this essential conundrum.

1) Decide that God is disinterested or uninvolved in human politics.
2) Decide that God is all-knowing, and that we, frail humans, are in no place to judge his running of the universe.
3) Decide that God is non-existent- time and chance happen to us all and we’re forced to make the most of it.

I believe I mentioned in the previous entry that it’s a part of human nature to want to attribute the significant things of our lives- and maybe the bad as well as the good- to some mystical or divine force. I suppose, if there is a positive, life-giving force in the Universe, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to respect and honor that power.

Actually, I proposed yet another solution even earlier on. I found it in Iyanla Vanzant’s book, “Yesterday, I Cried”. She explains that she would weep because despite everything that had happened in her life, she forgot to thank herself for making it through those hard times. What a novel notion, indeed, the idea that we can actually celebrate and take credit for our own accomplishments. This was also coming from a person who still avowed a belief in God.

So maybe it isn’t really one or the other. Maybe it’s not as stark as “I owe God everything I am, I would be lost, worthless, and hopeless without him” or as ridiculous as people going around saying “praise Man” in Tribulation movies (these are Christian movies depicting the “end times” and reign of the antichrist). Maybe we don’t have to choose between being headstrong, hedonistic narcissists, or being pious, self-deprecating serfs. Maybe we can recognize and acknowledge that no man is an island, without denying that every man is his own man. I am not helpless, but I still trust in God and other people. I may be free to do as I wish, but I am still subject to the consequences of my choices.

When you’re raised in a religion of extremes and “us vs. them” and good and evil, black and white, and “it’s your calling you have to do it” it may be hard to regain your own autonomy. I definitely struggle with it on a daily basis. I have self-esteem issues because of it and trouble making my own decisions. Every day, though I get a little bit stronger and a little bit closer to reaching my goals.

Good luck to all.

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