Step Two: Spiritual
For many in the modern times the Spiritual is something to be cast off, as it only interferes with desires or perhaps even knowledge. I believe this is a mistake, especially for the Gamma who needs a firm foundation to escape his prison of dishonesty. For the secularists who are about to stop reading don’t, this isn’t a polemic against atheism or a Christian apologetic work but rather an exhortation to find one’s roots and deals with personal ethics.
I’ll lay my cards on the table and explain my position which is a very standard, Protestant, Evangelical, and orthodox one. I’m Protestant by agreeing with the Solas from the Reformation and orthodox by accepting the ancient Christian creeds, Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian.
Know what you believe and why you believe it.
The most common error I see Gammas make in regards to spiritual and ethical matters is treating it like a game of witty comments, snark, and playing at the edges of important matters without skin in the game. The second mistake is thinking width of knowledge of spiritual matters is more important than depth. This flows directly from the Gamma’s ever-present and crippling fear of being wrong somewhere and somehow. The Gamma does not understand the deep matters behind what is going on in his own beliefs, which is ironic since most Gammas vastly overestimate their knowledge and ability in most everything.
The first step is to go deep in your current beliefs, back to the foundational documents to study and know them very well. Find the founding documents of your closest beliefs and read through them carefully. For the religious this is of course their holy book, but do you not identify in some way with a denomination, or at least a philosophy of your religion? Don’t concentrate on just the latest popular Christian book if you are Christian or Dawkins latest book if you are an atheist, go to the catechism if you are Roman Catholic, the Confessions if your denomination if you are Protestant, church history if you home church, and ancient atheist philosophy if you are completely secular just to start. People lived and died by these beliefs, find out why.
If you ascribe to their beliefs you honor the ones who came before you if you read their works carefully. Don’t skim, but rather drink in with full appreciation of their insights and the flaws. Almost certainly you are going to be surprised by some of the things you find. During this process take stock of your family’s beliefs; the faith of your parents particularly if you currently reject it. Give their beliefs a fair chance, read through those documents and not how badly your parents lived up to those ideals. This discovery can be challenging as the language can be archaic, but it’s well worth the effort.
It’s important to read the original documents and not the most recent interpretation of those documents even if they are by a favorite author. I’ve found that writers I respect a great deal can be sloppy at times or interject their own pet theories into a system, and then claim that’s what the system is all about. If you claim to believe in something, or follow an idea, you need to read the original for yourself.
If you are religious pray a great deal about what you find in humility and ask for forgiveness in being arrogant and obnoxious about your beliefs. Pray for wisdom and insight. Pray for a peaceful soul when finding troubling new truths. If you are secular dwell and contemplate what you have read. Realize you are probably not nearly as smart as you’d like to think and you need to change when the truth leads you to an inevitable conclusion.
You do this because you need depth on your beliefs, not width. You don’t need to know everything about everyone else’s beliefs; you need to know yours very well and how to defend them.
The first undertaking is to be honest with yourself about your beliefs and why you hold them. The second is to live up to the beliefs consistently as possible.
For the secularist I recommend writing down the virtues you admire and would like to see in yourself and your children. Then keep track for a week or two how well you actually keep to your own beliefs. I think it’s safe to say that unless you admire almost no virtues you’ll not do very well at this exercise. Keep this in mind the next time you just can’t wait to pounce on someone for not upholding their own professed beliefs.
For the religious keep in mind that your dishonesty can offend those around you and yourself, but ultimately the sin is against God. If you live dishonestly, and support dishonesty in yourself and others aren’t fooling the One who really counts.
Iron Sharpens Iron
Unlike Step One: Physical in which you need to keep your mouth shut until you put up, in these matters it is helpful and even expected to go to mentors, clergy, and the learned to help you understand things. After you read through the foundational documents of your beliefs you can do the following.
I first suggest you meeting with your pastor or priest with questions. (If secular perhaps a good mentor or old, secular friend.) Maybe they are simple and can even be handled by email. These are all non-confrontational meetings in which you are humbly trying to understand and clarify something. This is not under any circumstances an opportunity for you to take on your pastor in a dialectic (or even worse some rhetoric) with some new insight.
The second place is to enter into discussions is in online forums which encourage lively philosophical and theological debates. Two rules here:
1. Approach the matter humbly as a student, no arrogance, and seek to find answers, not score points or pontificate. Don’t make your question a sermon.
2. Never, ever be passive-aggressive in a spiritual question. You should never be passive-aggressive, but the offense here is exponential and you look like an ass.
Right: I struggle with how God can allow children to suffer. I find this is one of the barriers to me believing he exists or at least cares at all. How do Christians answer this?
Wrong: How come the invisible sky-daddy doesn’t save all the children from harm or regrow their arms when they lose one? Answer me that, God-botherers!
Wrong (Passive aggressive): I don’t understand why God allows children to suffer. Certainly if he exists he’ll keep the good and nice Christian children from harm right? I mean you pray to him and he said he’d give you anything you ask, correct?
Right: I’ve wondered how a secularist comes to moral conclusions about weighty issues. What do you personally find works for you?
Wrong: An atheist can never know right from wrong so how do you tell me what to do or believe? Do you even know yourself what’s right?
Right: Can a Roman Catholic here please help me better understand pedobaptism? I don’t find it in the New Testament, so is there another reason for it?
Wrong: How does throwing water on your baby magically give them faith Mary worshiper?
One of the most difficult things for Gammas to do is to forgive. They are so afraid of being seen as wrong or disliked they almost never forgive a slight and think that others never forgive either. They hold grudges, they are passive-aggressive towards people who have embarrassed them, or ignore them (block them on Twitter in today’s world), and they don’t even forgive themselves for wrongs. Gammas don’t forgive themselves, instead they lie to themselves and claim that they have done no wrong. If they do happen to admit to themselves they did something wrong, they typically obsess about it to the point of exhaustion, but never deal with it. It’s big reason why their relationships are perpetually troubled, they come across as disingenuous to most people because they genuinely are, and they obsess about minor offenses because they aren’t honest and they don’t know how to forgive.
Forgiveness is a big part of a spiritual life, and life in general. Don’t be obtuse about this either, that I’m talking about a wishy-washy faux forgiveness in which one claims there’s nothing to forgive. You are not obligated to forgive someone who is not sorry and unrepentant for their actions against you, though in charity you might eventually decide to forget them. When you forgive someone whom you believe is legitimately repentant for their action, that’s the end of it. Repentance isn’t just being sorry, it means changing one’s behavior, which is a big difference. You don’t lord their past actions over them, demand penance, or other such nonsense. You move on. You should also seek reconciliation against those you have legitimately wronged. However, don’t let your attempt at reconciliation turn into an attempt at revenge against you. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to date them, marry them, or even associate with them anymore beyond being civil if you are in the room with them. Forgiveness is not affection.
Being a man means being honest with yourself about your actions, taking responsibility for them, seeking reconciliation when you’ve done wrong, and forgiving those who have wronged you when they are repentant.
Don’t give out your word easily or say you will do something you think you cannot do or will not realistically do. This isn’t a technique to dodge responsibility, but rather a way to focus your abilities into the things you can actually accomplish and do well. A Gamma will act like he can do things he can’t and has a profound inability to take responsibility for his actions and typically resorts to running, lying, and deflecting as to avoid consequences. Once you start taking responsibility for things you will find it starts to become natural though not always easy. If someone gives you a task to do and you aren’t sure you can do it, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know you may not succeed but then assure them you will give it your full effort. If you fail, take full responsibility for your actions even if someone else put you in a tough spot, but be honest about how you ended up there if people inquire.
Leading the Way
Women despise men who have no firm foundations of beliefs. They may not notice for a while if you are careful, but eventually they spot your inconsistent behavior and lose respect for you. A firm foundation and wellspring from which you draw your beliefs about the universe acts like a rock of stability which women respect even if they don’t believe the same. You’ll find the same is true with men as well. Christians routinely say, and mean it when they’d rather deal with an honest atheist than a dishonest Christian.
This is pure Game here, which is standing out in the crowd. In today’s word will not an honest and honorable man not stand out in the crowd? I hear the cynic now talking about how an honest man is naïve, and people spit on honor. Honesty is not naïve it means dealing with how things really are, and who cares if the degenerates of the world scoff at virtue? They have always scoffed and they’ll scoff to their grave and perhaps beyond.
The reason that depth is more important than width here is the gravity of the subject at hand. Even if you think oblivion awaits everyone, it’s still an eternal oblivion. If you have children then what you pass on to them can carry on for generations.
For the Gamma this lack of personal, spiritual, honesty is the underpinning of all of their problems. If you start to become honest with yourself, learn about why you believe certain things at a deep level, are ready to forgive and also repent when you do wrong, you’ll find the other steps: Physical, Mental, and Emotional become easier to correct.
The anti-Gamma conclusion on Spiritual aspect of life: The world needs more honest men and honorable men. Be one of them.
Step One: Physical