As a Spiritual Counselor people sometimes come to me and ask that I assess where they are on their spiritual journey. There was the woman who, after some discussion, stated that she was having an affair with her next-door neighbor while her Army husband was deployed oversees. When I asked, “Do you plan on continuing this affair?” she replied, “Why not… it feels SO GOOD!” There was a parishioner from long ago who, once the grace had been said over the food at the Sunday parish meal, always… always!… rushed to be the first at the food, so much so that other parishioners knew to wait until she had charged ahead. And finally, there was the woman who admitted to stealing. “Not big, expensive things,” she explained, “Just little things.” When I asked, “Why?” she replied, “Because I want them.” Well, of course: If I want it, why not?! My assessment is that the core issue for many of us… if not most of us!… is our blindness to the extent that self-centeredness influences what we do and don’t do.
We have all had the experience of having a supposed “dialogue” with someone which is not only frustrating but which actually compounds the problem between the two individuals. When two people engage in a discussion with one another and neither is actually listening to the other (which implies wanting to hear) but is instead thinking about how the other is wrong, then this is not a dialogue, but two monologues fueled by two circles of overlapping self-centeredness.
Where we actually are in our spiritual journey is indicated by not only what we do and don’t do for others, but also the “why” behind these things. It is possible to do what looks like a good deed for someone but which is fueled by an evil intent, just as it is possible, in the name of goodness, to have to exercise “tough love” with someone which appears to an onlooker to be cruelty. And the “why” is very much influenced by what we understand about our own Divinity. The more spiritual one is the more one comes to realize that not only are we all connected to The Divine by our Divine nature, but also that this nature is generative. This means that the Divine nature seeks to create life for others, as well as nurturing the life in others. In other words, spiritual maturation requires the death of self-centeredness.
So what can we do? Do we always have to run to a “professional” to find out where we are spiritually? That can be helpful, but it is not mandatory. Taking time, daily, to reflect upon not only our actions of the previous day but also upon why we did or didn’t do things can gradually enable us to become aware of the degree to which self-centeredness has a hold on our heart. When we become aware of the reality of our self-centeredness… unless we are morally corrupt this awareness should generate a desire in us to change. In many ways our desire to change is limited only by our lack of awareness about our heart’s desires. Are you as you should be? Do you want to know who and how you are? Have you discovered the need to change yet? Are you willing to start with the “little things”?