Is Your Spirituality The Problem?

MarianneW Millie should have been over the moon - not down in the dumps.  Finally, she was legally and financially free of her ex-husband.  He had been every bit as difficult to divorce as he had to be married to.  She was free at last and relieved to be free. However, she was also carrying a huge burden of sadness. “I’m thrilled to be free,” she said (tearing up in a way that did not entirely match her words). “It’s just that I feel terribly sad that I couldn’t help him.” Now, in worldly terms, Tom – her ex – didn’t need her help in the slightest.  He had been promoted at work yet again, he was making shed-loads of money (that he would not be sharing 50/50 with her).  He had as many women dancing attendance on him as he wanted.  He had a glamorous home and a glamorous lifestyle.  He had as much of a relationship as he could be bothered to maintain with their children. Happiness was not Tom’s middle name.  Still, he had plenty to feel (self-)satisfied about. Tom was the kind of guy who fell on his feet – which Millie knew. The problem with Tom – from Millie’s point of view -  was that he had not just feet of clay, but whole legs of clay. (And a heart of clay, besides.)  Millie had had to admit to herself that Tom really was not a nice guy. That fact REALLY troubled Millie. Millie is a delightful woman. She is one of those women – and let’s face it there are an awful lot of women like her around – who have been “tempered” by tough life experiences. She had been through a lot of difficulties in her life. She had discovered her spirituality, and she had come out the other side, stronger, braver and more spiritual.

Spirituality and the need to help

Millie had had to dig very deep to survive all that she had been through.  She had done a huge amount of work on herself.  In fact, she had made it her mission to use what she had learned to help other people to overcome the pain and the trauma in their own lives. Her own experiences helped to make her exceptionally good at what she did  which made it even more galling that she could not help Tom. In an ideal world, Tom would, of course, have wanted to learn from Millie.  In the real world, Tom regarded Millie’s spirituality as feeble-mindedness. In reality, Millie is not feeble-minded at all.  However, her spirituality has led her to tolerate far more abuse from Tom than she  should have.   I pointed out to Millie more than once that it was not her job to save Tom. She works – as do I, also – with people who are looking for a better way to live, who want to be free of their problems.  Tom does not belong to that group.  Rather, he would hate to be free of his approach to life.  He does not see it as a problem.  It is what makes him the man he is. Tom has no interest whatsoever in spirituality.  He is cynical, manipulative, and materialistic approach is the foundation for his – materialistic -success.  That is not to say that anyone has to live the way Tom does in order to be successful.  It is simply a method that works for Tom – at a cost. But it is a cost that Tom is happy to pay. Millie believes that Tom, just like everyone else, is a child of God.  By right, he should, therefore, behave like a child of God.

Choices and responsibilities

She has been making his behavior, and his choices her responsibility.  She had been trying, with the best possible intentions, to propel him along her spiritual path.  Her logic ran along these lines:  “Since Tom, also, is a child of God, he should be making the kind of choices I am making, rather than the kind of choices he is making.”  (Tom, it should be said, has no wish to see himself as a child of God.) Actually, neither Tom’s spiritual path not his choices are Millie’s business. Besides, as Marianne Williamson says: “Any man who holds a woman back is not a man a woman can afford to be with.” Tom held Millie back every which way for as long as she would let him – because that is what a man like Tom does. Millie’s spiritual journey cannot be about Tom. When she is focusing on what he most needs (in her opinion) she is not focusing on herself. She would prefer to save Tom from his dark side than get to grips with her own.

Flaws and imperfections

Too many people, like Millie, would like to use their spirituality to shield themselves from their own flaws, and imperfection. When we try to shield ourselves from our flaws and imperfections, we are trying to run from our wounds.  For as long as we do this, we cannot be healed. However, there is no need for anyone to be perfect. If you are spiritual, all that you have to do is surrender your flaws and imperfections to a Higher Power.  You obviously cannot do that until you are prepared to accept them. Even if you are not spiritual, you still have to accept your flaws and imperfections before you can surrender them on your path to wholeness and happiness. Either way, there is a message we need to take on board. Acceptance of who you are – shadow side and all – is hugely important.  You cannot be who you truly are for as long as you shift the focus away from yourself, and try to deny some part of who you think you are. Your shadow side does not make you bad. Especially if you see it simply as a spur to your growth. Acceptance is about owning your flaws and imperfections so that you can grow beyond them. You do not need to sugar-coat anything about yourself – or other people – in order to be spiritual. You simply need to own your feelings and surrender them – so that you can be so much more than whatever flaws or imperfections you may have.
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