I find homo sapiens to be the most interesting study. Myself included. We have a longing for society, friendships and fellowship with others. That being said, we have the most difficult of times getting along, without offending one another.
Try as we will, not long after people gather, we find we have said or done some action that we wished we had not. We seem to jockey for position, swell and snort for elevation. Not content with mere discussion, we have this need to defend our intellectual ground, or pout if our self perceived status isn’t recognized. As often as not, we leave discussing others faults or blaming them for not valuing our presence. It is a madness of sorts. I say it’s a madness because the list of short comings we hide is nearly endless. To borrow from Jeremy Taylor’s list of shortcomings;
We speak of ourselves as though we have forgotten our follies and weaknesses, the sins of our youth and the weakness of our age,
Their imperfect grace and the long list of omissions of duty,
our hesitations and fears, reservations and cowardice,
All our shame and things we are sorry for,
The evil intentions and little plots,
Our carnal confidences and trust in things of this world,
The overindulgences and lack of self-control,
our wilder escapades and materialism,
The wasting of time and eager submission to compromise,
Our trifling complaints and little peevishnesses,
The mixtures of the world with the things of the spirit,
And all the times we received mercy and the ingratitude we showed,
Our breaches of promise and abandoning of holy purposes,
The breaking of resolutions, and the plundering of our vows.
These things we are tempted to conceal and present ourselves to society as though we have nothing to hide. Were the curtain drawn back on all of our folly, one could scarcely imagine how our society has continued.
These things being said, not a day later we find ourselves craving the company of others. I was reading a piece from William Law’s “Christian Perfection” and he writes about our weaknesses in a vivid way—
"Let us take another view of the weakness and disorder of our nature. When we see people drunk, or in a violent passion, we readily own that they are in a state of delusion-- thinking, saying, and doing irregular things under the promptings of their high spirits. In these states we all see and acknowledge the power of our bodies over our reason and never suppose a man capable of judging or acting wisely as long as he is under the influence of violent passions or drink.
Whether a man be drunk with passion or strong drink, there is the same weakness of mind, the same disordered imagination, the same misapprehension of the nature of things.
We are always in a state either of self-love, pride, hatred, envy, covetousness, or ambition. One or more of these passions affect in some degree our spirits in the same manner that liquor affects us. A silent envy, a secret vanity which nobody sees raises disorderly thoughts in our heads and perverts our judgments in the same manner as do more violent passions."
When I read the part that says " we are always in a state either of self-love, pride, hatred, envy etc."
It made me think and wonder; are there no times when I'm free of self-love, times when I am truly humble? As I went through the list it was difficult to remember when I spent an hour free of some distemper.
Now to bring this to the spiritual battlefield I’ll turn to Thomas A. Kempis --
“For the love of God you ought cheerfully to undergo all things, that is to say, labors and pains; temptations, vexations, anxieties, necessities, infirmities, injuries, slanders, reproofs, humiliations, confusions, corrections, and despisings.
These are a help to virtue; these are the trial of a novice in Christ; these frame the heavenly crown. I will give an everlasting reward for a short labor, and infinite glory for transitory confusion.” Thomas A Kempis
“Trials of a novice in Christ”, would that I weren’t still a novice in Christ after thirty some years as a Christian, but to cheerfully undergo all the vexations and confusions I encounter with others is still one of my greatest challenges.