Spiritual superiority and how it will hurt you

You’re a spiritual person. You’ve adopted a way of life, a practice, a set of beliefs, and you’ve done this because they strike you as being good and right and likely to make your life better. Maybe for a while life is better, and you feel uplifted, reassured, affirmed and good about what you are doing.

Something goes wrong.

You can count on this. Someone gets ill, or dies, or is hurt, someone else’s anger impacts on you, or your boss is shitty or you lose your job or some practical thing stops working or explodes, or one of those things happen to someone you care about or somewhere in the world some awful thing happens and the images on the TV make you cry.

Then what?

The sane and sensible answer is to admit that your religion is not a cure-all and that you are not so enlightened and magical and special as to be able to avoid all of this. Other options are available though. What the other options do is allow you to uphold the superiority of the system you are in, or perpetrate an illusion of your spiritual superiority. None of this does a person, or the people around them much good in the long term.

  • Denial: Just refuse to let yourself think about it or admit there is a problem.
  • Blame: It’s the other person’s fault for thinking negative thoughts, having bad karma, not trying hard enough.
  • Justify: This is really good for you, that’s why it’s happened.
  • Insulation: practicing not caring so as not to feel either your own troubles or anyone else’s.

None of these choices help us improve situations. Pushed far enough and any of them can turn into cognitive dissonance – where the story you tell yourself about what’s happening is so far removed from reality as to be dangerous to you. This is what happens when victims convince themselves that their abusers are only doing it as an expression of love, for example.

Often, when you infer the existence of a higher plan, a spiritual failing or a deservedness to explain something awful, what you do is remove any need to take action. It ceases to be your problem, and while that has an insulating quality, it also dehumanises all of us. It dehumanises the person whose situation is being explained so as to be ignored, and it dehumanises the one who is refusing to recognise that sometimes, life is a bit shit.

Sometimes, life is a bit shit, and if we can be honest with ourselves and each other, we can do something to alleviate the shit bits, sometimes. No one is so saintly, enlightened, magical, or clever enough to avoid the nastier sides of life. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Spiritual superiority and how it will hurt you

  • Terry

    Heres a question I’ve always asked: why do some seem to have it much easier, and others suffer and /or struggle in this life…..and I dont follow the thinking that its because of choices. Choices may play a part in some situations, but there are many situations where choices are not the reason.

  • witchinsuburbia

    I think about this every time I see news coverage of war, murder or natural disasters. The problem with it is (and I’m trying to choose my words carefully here), certain religious people think everything good comes from their god and all bad things are due to negative spiritual influences or serve as a divine punishment. This accomplishes two goals:
    1) It takes the responsibility off of humans
    2) It makes the believer feel better, more secure.

    It lets people separate themselves from what’s going on. ‘My god is protecting me because I’m one of the chosen.’ It’s silly. At any time, fecal phenomena will occur. It’s how we mentally and physically approach said phenomena that defines us, and ultimately, our walk with Deity.

    It is not the job or (I believe) the intent of Deity to provide constant hand-holding. We’re human, and humans are gonna fuck shit up on occasion. We’re fallible.

    We can either point fingers at said shit or grab a shovel and do something to help get rid of it.

  • Turtle

    It’s very easy to fall into the trap of “it can’t happen to me.” I fall into it all too often… I work out so I won’t ever get heart disease…I eat right so I won’t ever become diabetic…I read a lot and do word puzzles so I won’t ever get Alzheimer’s…I work hard at my job so I won’t ever be unemployed, etc… Embarassing but I acknowledge it. I think we have a natural desire for power and control, at least over our own lives. The important thing, I think, is to channel that into something positive and constructive and not get into victim-blaming, or frustration or hopelessness when things go wrong. Which they will, despite our (and my!) best efforts. I find it very easy to get overwhelmed by all the things I can’t fix but desperately wish I could, both in my own life and in the larger world. At times like that I personally find the idea of a mysterious divine plan comforting. Is it nonsense? Quite possibly, but it keeps me (mostly) sane.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I believe in damage control. Bad things happen, including to me, but I do not have to make a things worse. First I can make a choice to not miss any of the good stuff no matter how small, even if it is just that the bad things are to as bad as I had fear. Search for any beauty in unexpected places. Don’t pass my own hurt to others. When possible, find a reason to laugh and joke about my problems. Laughter is always ether than moaning and complaining, which male you feel worse. Turn y hurt and pain into compassion for others that hurt. As it turns out it heals me as well to have a world that supports those as needed so that they can heal. Create giggle moments every day, make something good, happen don’t worry about it’s size. Continue to be amazed at all that I have survived and give thanks for that survival. Forget old hurts and stop worrying about a future that is still a myth yet unspoken. Take care of right now. That is enough for anyone to handle.

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