It seems like there is debate happening surrounding the idea of Faith vs. Personal Development. The idea of faith and logic not being able to coincide. If you’re not a person of faith I’d suggest you read this anyway because it’s not a debate most people would assume.
You see, our society is currently so polarized we have this toxic idea that two things cannot simultaneously be true. If you believe one thing, and I believe another there are no options in between. We simply have to fight to the death over our respective positions. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to take a step back and reflect deeper on the relationship between conflicting ideas. In the end, we don’t have to agree at all, but we should respect differing opinions.
The Power of Faith
Faith is an extremely powerful idea. In the Western World, we are a primarily Judaeo-Christian culture and for the purpose of this post I’m going to assume that view. Ironically, it is my own personal view as well.
Here is what is important to remember about faith… in terms of being a “Christian”, or if you prefer, a “follower of Christ” the objective is to discover a personal intimate relationship with the Creator and Savior of the world. There are many theories on how to achieve this, the most common being go to church on a regular basis, sing loudly in the choir, pray, read the Bible, and reflect the attitude of Christ.
But what’s that got to do with having a “personal and intimate relationship” with God? Well, to be honest, when you really dig into it… there isn’t much. Now, Before I get crucified for being sacrilegious let me explain…
Attending church, singing loudly on Sunday, studying the pastor’s sermon… this is all part of the “activities” of faith. In many ways this is the weekly communal meal where you get together and socialize as well as receive some guidance and fill up on food for thought. The problem is, that is all most people do.
Now, I’m not going to lecture you on your activities of faith because ultimately what matters is if you believe. You can believe and be someone who has a deeply intimate knowledge and understanding of God and you can be the occasional church goer and also have faith. So what is the real difference? The level of intimacy, basically. Imagine only spending time with your spouse once a week for a few hours in the presence of a group. Real intimate, right? No wonder so many have “divorced the church”.
Who God Says I Am
One of the most powerful aspects of faith, in my opinion, is learning about what God thinks about you. This is often what people focus in on when they are struggling or hurting and searching for their own identity. In terms of what the Bible says, I encourage you to discover the depths of how God describes you there… but here are some examples.
- When you’re the 1 lost sheep out of 100, God will leave the 99 to find you.
- God knows you so perfectly that every hair on your head is numbered.
- All things work for the good of those who love Him.
- The price of sin is death… yet God didn’t just wipe your debt clean, he paid all your future debts as well.
- You were fearfully and wonderfully created… in His own (spiritual) image.
God calls you His beloved. In His eyes you have a royal robe on your shoulders and a ring of authority on your hand. There is tremendous power and inspiration in the knowledge that you are loved unconditionally. What human truly possesses this ability? None. This is why people turn to faith in their times of trouble and having unshakable faith is something to be admired.
Who Am I Really, Though?
I’m going to shake some feathers here, so if you don’t have thick skin or the ability to think for yourself you may want to stop reading right here. Or just take a deep breathe and let it out slowly. Ready?
Just because you know who God says you are doesn’t mean you know yourself.
Too many people use faith as a shield to hide behind to excuse them from seeking additional growth in their life. They’re just “waiting on God” and not taking any action in any direction of their life. People use the idea of waiting on God to put their entire life on hold and frankly, I don’t believe that’s what God intended. That’s no different than sitting in your car with it running waiting for the GPS to select a destination AND drive the car for you.
You have to MOVE in order for God to show you the way. The phrase “pray like it depends on God, work like it depends on me” has special meaning.
I’m going to make a bold claim here… I assert that a “non-believer” who has aggressively implemented a personal growth plan understands God more than most “Christians”. Why? Because the very nature of God is found in striving… facing adversity, overcoming and growing to the next level in life. Faith is no different, except that people tend to hide behind it.
I’ll end this section with this… if you doubt what I’m saying look up the gospel written by Paul and find his letter to the early churches. In them he discusses the idea of “milk” and “meat”. Babies need milk, adults eat meat. Growth in all forms is like this… physically, psychologically, spiritually. Everything.
Faith vs. Personal Development
Now, let’s be clear… plenty of people also hide behind the idea of Personal Development too! They go to conferences and seminars, they buy books and join groups and for them it’s just a social club. To be technical about it the practice of hiding behind an idea to add a perceived value to yourself is called “virtue signaling”. You see people do it on social media all the time.
These are typically the type of individuals looking for a “quick solution” and they don’t understand the full implementation of practicing the values they learn. Which, is no different than people of faith who do the same. What is the difference, then?
The difference is there are people who lean fully in faith and never understand themselves. There are also people who lean solely into personal development who never learn to understand faith. Those who marry the two obtain a deep satisfaction in not only their faith but in understanding the unique ways God created them to be. When you know your strengths, limits and unique attributes you begin to understand where God’s purpose for you lies.
It’s not profound, if you know who God says you are but know nothing about who God really made you to be… how is that glorifying to God? To everyone else watching you, you’re just a bible thumping ignoramus. But when you know exactly who you are and how what God says about you applies specifically to who you uniquely are… now we’re talking.
One Without the Other
Not everyone has faith, and I’m not here to judge. I believe you are more likely to come to understanding faith and God by learning about who you are as a human Being. You exist with purpose. You have a striving within you. You’ll make decisions that’ll pull you toward or away from the satisfaction of those yearnings.
Similar benefits exist with leaning only into faith. Especially when leaning into the teachings of Proverbs and gaining wisdom that is valid spiritually and in the world. Many people of faith who are putting in the work to find intimacy with God discover who they are in the process.
The key is to not be the person using either faith or personal development as a shield to hide behind or a sword to attack and judge others. Don’t be that person. Remember, the only person you are 100% responsible for in this world is you. Keep your eyes focused on consistently becoming a better version of yourself.
Keeping your eyes focused on bettering yourself will lead to the world around you also getting better. This gives you the opportunity to share your faith and/or philosophy with others when they come to you for advice, guidance and help. It makes you a better person and equipped to make a significant difference in the lives of those who turn to you.
This is what matters… in all faiths and philosophies there exists some form of the “Golden Rule”. Adhering to that rule is what makes you the “light and salt” in this world. People will be thirsty for your knowledge and you will be a beacon to lead them to their own strength, peace, and joy.
Never stop growing. Never stop seeking. Never stop believing in something greater than yourself. Never stop giving to those who ask with a spirit of sincerity. Never give up. Never stop hoping. Never stop praying. Never stop leading. Never stop loving… and you will die having left a mark on the world around you, one worth remembering.
This is what Master of Man is all about. I hope to see you along the journey.