Living what you believe

We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.

– Richard Rohr

This is such a profound mystery, but I have found it to be very true in my own life. Until I began to allow my beliefs to shape the very rhythms of my life, those beliefs did not transform me significantly in any way. The mystery is, that as I live what I believe, then my life begins to inform my beliefs and deepen them. Truly how can we call these things ‘beliefs’ when we do not live them out? Rather, they remain simply ‘nominal intellectual adherences’ that ask nothing of us. ‘Praxis’ as some would call it is the perfect foil for the dangerous fundamentalism that one can fall into (religious, atheist, agnostic… all have their fundamentalists!), but it also guards against two other things that come to mind at present.

One is apathy.  I cannot ignore the suffering of a world that I choose to engage with on a practical and spiritual level, due to the simple fact that its freedom and liberation is tied up with mine.

The second is ego. I remember this brilliant XKCD strip:

Many of us are obsessed with being right… religious, atheist, agnostic. Strangely, the more I live out what I believe the less concerned I am with guarding those beliefs from others. ‘Praxis’ and openness to truth means that I can allow the whole field of reality to teach me, whilst still being true to my core identity and values, and, in fact, deepening them.


~ by humblemonkey on July 29, 2009.

6 Responses to “Living what you believe”

  1. I think that quote has quite the wisdom in it! I have become keenly aware that the things that I have accepted as “right belief” have been grown and nurtured because I wanted them to be true, not because they actually were.

    We all certainly have our biased view of the world, the universe, and everything. No doubt that perspective comes through our life experience, our culture, our place in history and other filters.

    When our lifestyle changes then our thinking changes because of those different experiences. So just as you have said, connectedness, spirituality, ego and simply being right can create a lifestyle that can have amazing impacts on our thinking.

    Thank you for this post. Challenging to consider when I most often think of this topic on its head!

  2. Aaron, thanks for your insightful response! You mentioned our biased worldviews and how these are shaped by a range of factors in our lives. Biased is a strong word, but I think it is helpful to use it if it brings us to a greater place of humility and teachableness.
    It brings to mind a quote from the Dalai Lama.. “Learn the law perfectly, so you can learn to disobey it properly”. He almost sums up St Pauls letters around the relationship between Grace and Law! It also brings to mind my observations as a youth worker over the years. When we are young, we necessarily are conservative and fairly dualistic in our thinking.. we build an identity, a world-view based on place, culture etc. However, I think we all get to a point where we have to mature. To see the world in a more harmonised way, to see the grays, the truths in tension etc.
    Action-reflection is essential for this, because without it, some of us never grow up. I see this especially in the West, where our relative level of comfort and material well-being means we can create more and more comfortable lives that are insulated from the realities of community, suffering, service, and ultimately belonging and interdependence. I think young people intuitively know this, which is why they go off seeking these things in all the wrong places.. most notably gangs, and joining the military, where unfortunately they often find the opposite of the loving, caring and morally strong men and women they are looking for.

  3. Oh my! I have been that comic strip . . . I still am sometimes (hence the desire to delete FBC from my FB in my previous blog post). Ai yi yi!

    I go back to the idea of us being storypeople. We all simply want to share our stories with others and be a part of the stories God is writing in other people’s lives. It’s no coincidence that we have been given a biblical narrative into which to live; God created us to be people of story. We become flawed when we want to justify our stories. Or when we make the lens in which we view the world the only correct way–as if our stories outweigh everyone else’s. Or when we don’t have grace, forgetting that the stories of our lives greatly influence how we live in this world; some people behave a certain way because that’s the only story they know. Speaking of gangs, I watched a documentary on gangs in the U.S. and talked with some guys who are in a gang afterward. If you grow up in a certain ‘hood here in the States, you belong to a certain gang. That’s just how it is. They simply live into the narrative the culture has written for them without even realizing there are alternative stories out there.

    I wrote a song many moons ago about instead of trying to write my own stories, I’d like to pass the pen back to God and be a part of the story God’s already writing in the world. Instead of writing God into lines of my story, I pray Christ will write me into his beautiful narrative. How freeing it will be to simply live into that story, to surrender to Christ each day, to stop thinking and start living . . .

  4. Would love to hear that song =)
    I wrote a similar one a few years back.. using the clay metaphor though, allowing myself to be moulded despite the discomfort sometimes..

  5. ps I am reading a massive tome on Church History, just got to the section on the origins of the Methodist church, very interesting!

  6. Oh wow . . . a tome on church history. Good stuff! I really love Wesley and his work towards justice in regards to slavery, the poor and the imprisoned. And he maintained a faithful commitment to evangelism and preaching salvation.

    Here are someWesley-isms for you:

    “One of the principal rules of religion is, to lose no occasion of serving God. And, since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbour; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us.” -JW

    “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.” -JW

    “In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is a continual prayer.” -JW

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