Modern spiritual gurus may not be the best option, since men need a step-by-step ladder to becoming a greater man – something better offered by more traditional faiths
(Article by Oliver Chapman)
It would seem that, these days, there is a dearth of interest in spirituality as it was traditionally conceived; while modern-day gurus such as Deepak Chopra or celebrities such as Oprah have embraced an eclectic range of beliefs, and positive psychology is all the rage, for all this abundance of spiritual options, there seems to be a lack of depth or sense of direction to many of the varieties of spirituality now on offer.
Coupled with this is a confusion between spirituality and religion, as though the two were mutually incompatible – you can’t be religious without being a traditionalist, right-wing, anti-LGBT fuddy-duddy who votes Republican, while if you’re spiritual, then you must be some kind of new-age guru appearing on daytime TV with a “you-can-have-it-all” message.
But this goes against the example of history, where guys like St. Francis of Assisi were able to love everybody and be deeply spiritual, while being 100% committed to the teachings of their religion. Martin Luther King was a big-time traditional Protestant preacher, yet still managed to lead the black civil rights movement to victory and become the pre-eminent figure in 20th. century US race relations.
So I would argue that a deeper impact on masculinity can be felt when we take the time to develop our own connection to the spiritual reality that is out there, while using the tenets of our religious background as guidelines that reveal a path that we can follow to become the better man that it is our birthright to become.
My own experience is a good example. My mother is a lapsed Catholic who chose to have me baptized into the Church of England denomination (Pentecostal in the US) as a statement against her own strict Catholic upbringing; she brought me up without religion but after receiving verbal, emotional and physical abuse from my father, I developed avoidant personality disorder and suffered prolonged teasing and bullying from boys at school until the age of 16. I had very low self-esteem and hated myself intensely; and the introspection that this caused led me to becoming attracted to the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially on issues of forgiveness and God’s love for the poor and forgotten people of the world, of which I considered myself a fully-paid-up member.
I discovered my own spirituality within myself in my own way and in my own time, and I suppose I could have stayed that way; but I became increasingly dissatisfied with going around in circles. I wanted to experience everything my spirituality had to offer but this involved making a commitment to follow Christ’s teachings and making a more concerted effort. Through a range of events, I ended up returning to the Roman Catholic Church; but not for me the often heavy-handed doctrine and judgementalism of other Catholics – I chose to focus on the unconditional love offered by luminaries such as St. Francis, Mother Theresa and the personal example of John Paul II, who was Pope at the time.
It all started with a personal decision to follow the Ten Commandments. The daily decisions that needed to be taken to make sure that I didn’t tell lies or steal or be jealous of others often forced me to put what, at the time, appeared to be blind faith in God that everything would turn out OK. I would choose to do something, terrified that it wouldn’t work out but confident that it was what God wanted and, sure enough, things would be OK. Sometimes, unusual or unexpected surprises would happen that, perhaps, would not have happened if I had not made that choice.
I remember when I was very poor in Australia and a homeless man asked me for money. I looked in my wallet and saw ONE Australian dollar and a few small coins. I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast yet, so I was hungry. I decided to put faith in Christ’s teachings and gave him the dollar. After he walked away, I went to a bakery and bought some bread. “That’ll be 23 cents,” said the lady. I looked in my wallet and, sure enough, the “few small coins” totalled exactly 23 cents to the very penny.
It is situations like these that allow us to see beyond mere appearances and catch a glimpse of what destiny awaits us. However, we can only see this destiny when we put faith in the teachings we are given. If we refuse to obey, we are also refusing to open the door to becoming a better person and achieving the happiness that is ours for the taking.
One of the difficulties people have with this is the fact that you are doing it blind; you can’t see where you are going. However, one decision made in faith, leads to further doors opening; taking these subsequent doors, leads to further doors down the road; and so, as time goes by, a body of experience builds up and, although we still have no idea where we are going, after a certain amount of time and experience, we can look behind us at the path we have travelled so far and see that we are now in a better place than we were before and, indeed, that we are a better man for having travelled that distance in faith.
So by all means develop your own spirituality YOUR way, in YOUR time, in the way that is meaningful for YOU – but to become a better man, you need a path to follow, even if that path appears blind at the beginning. Religion oftentimes gives us the framework we need to find that path and achieve the greatness that is possible for us in this life and, indeed, this was the way of all the saints and prophets of old. So I encourage you to do the same and not discount the value of more traditional religions, since they often have a much better-developed system of mystic pathway than more modern alternatives; and in so doing, you will find it that much easier to become the man you have always wanted to be and achieve the greatness that you were born to occupy in this life.
Read more at: goodmenproject.com