Flowers are the crown of nature, giving Earth a splendour that celebrates the life this planet sustains. My Gallery’s theme today is “Flowers”, with the collection coming from my garden, and some wild flowers of the fields.
Everyone can makes mistakes. They are one of the first skills we develop as toddlers. We try to crawl. We fall flat on our face. We try to walk. We step forward and fall down again, and so on.
Why do I call “mistakes” a skill?
I’ll tell you why: there’s no person who can walk today who, as a toddler, didn’t fall down. Additionally, there’s no person who can walk today who did not get back up and try again.
See, anyone and everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone sees the purpose and skill of mistakes. If you’re a person who sits down and gives up after mistakes, you haven’t yet grasped their importance in your life.
Everything we ever learned and succeeded at is underpinned and paralleled with the mistakes we made along the learning journey. Think of learning to read and write, of doing mathematics, riding a bike, driving a car, swimming, playing a sport, and so forth. Now understand this: it’s the mistakes in all of those that taught you the most. In other words, the mistakes were the fundamental contributors to your eventual success.
Mistakes will be with us all of the time. Whenever we are learning something new or think we know something well, we will still make a mistake. It’s not unprofessional to make mistakes and it sure isn’t stupid.
It’s unprofessional to give up, to deny responsibility, to hide, to lie, to cheat, and to pass blame when it comes to your own mistakes. Instead, stop beating yourself up. Overcome those feelings of shame, damaged pride, fear and anxiety. Replace them with courage, determination, strength to rise again, tenacity, and the wisdom to learn from those mistakes. Wisdom and intelligence is then seen in how you implement what you’ve learnt as you keep pushing forward.
It’s only human, as Billy Joel said: “you’re not the only one who’s made mistakes, but they’re the only thing you can truly call your own.”
Don’t tell yourself you’re stupid and hopeless just because you made a mistake. Tell yourself you’re as human as the next person, then make the concerted effort to grasp the lesson and get up and go forward with what you’ve learnt. Mistakes can be treasures. They’re probably one of the most valuable part of our lives, because they teach us more than any thing else could ever do.
Be kind to yourself!
Never underestimate my Jesus.
Humans think in short cuts. Scientific studies into cognitive processing show that we use mental short cuts which help us make quick decisions, thus being time and energy efficient. Now, there is a continuum here: some people are more likely to be “short cutters” while others are more conscientious. I guess this is a personality thing combined with level of education.
I’m a bit of both. In daily life, about the less important things, I’m a short cutter through and through. But at work where I am making heavy decisions that will affect people’s lives, I think much more critically and thoroughly before proceeding. The one thing that helped me develop my critical thinking and problem solving skills has been my studies in science, particularly mathematics, physics and chemistry. In those studies I learnt the simple processes of problem solving: a sequence of questions; What do we know? What is involved? What do we want to know? How do we get there using what we do know?
Then, when studying psychological science I studied the concept of “short cuts” and how society and people use our “short cutting” to deceive us and trick our minds into doing/accepting/believing things that wouldn’t survive the more critical thinking processes. Thus, the art of persuasion is rooted in diverting us away from critical thinking by using “heuristic” cues that lead us into short cuts.
This poses an immediate problem: short cutting is statistically shown to produce many times more errors than thorough critical thinking. To persuade you, a person needs to stop you from thinking critically and they’ll pull out all their guns to do this.
Some techniques commonly seen are: appeals to celebrity opinion/tastes, appeals to famous academics, fast talking, gift giving, sleight of hand, making things more desirable by telling you “limited time”, “limited stock”, etc.
Think about this. Watch a night of tv commercials and ask yourself, “what does a sports celebrity have to do with what air conditioner to buy?” “What does a supermodel have to do with what books I should read?” “What does a scientist have to do with what brand of peas I buy?” And so forth.
Now think of other kinds of propaganda. One thing that both atheists and theists do in trying to persuade you to their view is appeal to famous academia. Atheism is notorious for calling on Richard Dawkins (who is a biologist but not a theologian or historian), Stephen Hawking (who is a physicist not a theologian or historian), and other past and present academics. These people are famous for writing a lot of books in their field and/or making at least one major discovery. So atheists appeal to the celebrity atheists, as if the celebrity atheist is sufficient information we need to become atheists. These celebrity atheists seize upon the opportunity for self ingratiating fame by writing books about topics in which they are not qualified; usually with much rhetoric and propaganda to make the book thicker.
But what of theists? Oh yes they do it too! They appeal to Oxford mathematics professor and author, John Lennox, professor of history and author John Dickson, and other notable lawyers, scientists, philosophers etc who are theists. Again, the sleight of hand, like the atheists, is to trick us into thinking these people’s beliefs are all we need to know to form our own beliefs.
And frankly, that’s not true. What you really need is your own capable brain. You need to be able to look at things from every angle, no matter who or what tries to influence you. You need to be able to work out what we do know, how we know it, what can or can’t be known. You need to work out the costs, risks and benefits, you need to work out what you want to know, what you hope to find out. Ask yourself, “what is my question in this?” And then use all of that to map a path toward your goal of solving your problem; and, like a mathematician or scientist, if your chosen path doesn’t lead you to a solution, back track and work out a new path.
Basically, think for yourself. The questions of critical thinking are, “What is the evidence? How do we know?”
The answer has nothing to do with who else believes or disbelievers, who tells you what, what an atheist academic says, what a church leader says, or what a theist academic says. Those people may well be wrong, and likely are. You need to think out your own hypothesis and method of researching the problem.
And at risk of appealing to a “celebrity” I will quote Einstein here: “it’s not that I am more intelligent. It’s just that I spend more time thinking carefully and staying with a question until a satisfactory solution is found.”
Good thinking is not about speed, consensus, peer pressure, intimidation, celebrity opinion, or scarcity of resources. It’s about patience, diligence, conscientiousness, and the willingness to stay with a question until a solution satisfies, even if it takes a lifetime. There’s no shame in not knowing the solution while you’re in the middle of the quest, and there’s a world of wisdom in admitting this truth.
Think for yourself!
The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. (Socrates).
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. (Shakespeare)
He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions. (Confucius)
We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom. (Tolstoy).
I AM IGNORANT of absolute truth. But I am humble before my ignorance and therein lies my honor and my reward. (Gibran).
Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?There is more hope for a fool than for them.
So there you have it folks:
The simple thing is that I know I don’t know, and that is the actual answer.
I have fond memories of my earlier college days.
I met my husband in the first week and we married at the end of that year. I made great friends, had great travels, and found myself intensely challenged by the learning I undertook.
This was back in the mid 90′s at the Australian College of theology and Sydney Missionary & Bible College. I went to study a Bachelor of Theology with an Associate Diploma in Divinity. After three years of this intense time I attained both and went with my husband to ministry in various places in this country.
As I indicated in my “About” section, I have several degrees. Someone once asked me what it is like to “study God” in a theological degree. I replied that it is the most perplexing study I’ve ever undertaken. To study science or history, etc., is like jumping into a pool. There’s a boundary to what humans know and can know, with hope of knowing more. But the edges are reachable, and one can get a good footing within a reasonable amount of time. To study God and the Bible, on the other hand, is like jumping into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I can’t touch the bottom. I can’t swim to shore. Every time I think I’ve got somewhere, I find that it’s hardly an inch in the grand scheme of things.
Life hasn’t been easy and I’ve continued to face my challenges. I am glad of them for softening me to others and opening my mind to other people’s perspectives. I’m glad of presently being in the place of challenging my beliefs and assumptions.
And I’ve walked away a number of times. I’ve given in and gotten frustrated. My husband and I left ministry four years ago, despaired and despondent. I left with more questions than ever. I have many, many questions and I continue to search. I don’t think I’ll ever get my feet on the bottom or reach the shore, not in this life or the next. I don’t think we really understand things as we should and I don’t think we really have a grip on the bible like we assume we do.
I don’t. I don’t understand it all. I do have big questions that, despite my biblical studies in the Old and New Testament, reading the texts in their original language, being of Jewish culture (Messianic), and studying the anthropology and history of the ancient Middle East: I don’t understand the theology and things behind it all. I know we have our stock textbook answers, our simple explanations (that leave open more questions than they answer), and our westernised interpretations.
But these are not necessarily true, and I am mining them and mining them and mining them to try to resolve the dissonance and difficulty that plagues my mind daily.
I am an open, honest, fervent seeker. I am still seeking because though I have experienced the joys and the struggles of Christianity, I still have not touched the bottom or reached the shore. Knowing and understanding God (as if it is fully humanly possible) is much more complex than any other academic discipline. Furthermore, theology is more than an academic discipline: it is a spiritual pursuit, a journey, and a search that involves our entire being and identity.
When I come to obstacles like the one I am now stuck on, I don’t stand here inexperienced, uncaring, unfeeling, and indifferent. I stand here with my whole being torn and involved in the struggle. And with my entire being I hope I can work it out, even if it means I still don’t get my feet on the ocean floor.
And even though I may not, I will still be thankful for the journey I’ve had; for the flirt with atheism, the dance with apatheism, and the wrestle with theism. I’ll be thankful because these have taken my narrow mind and widened my perspective and understanding of so many world views.
Wherever I end up, what ever I come to believe, whatever I find, I will always hope to continue to open my mind and heart to the people around me.
And the question about God and the bible and the great difficulties that do exist, will probably always plague me. But I am hoping I can reconcile with God somehow, somewhere in the process. That’s no easy, simple, shallow concept, and anybody who has journeyed a path similar to mine will grasp how difficult the struggles are.
Still searching. Still questioning. Still unanswered: but still swimming in this great ocean!!
The answers aren’t as simple as we’ve been told to believe, and that’s part of being a true theologian; more so part of loving and chasing after God with all my mind and heart.