A good percentage of people in this world are full of crap. And we all need help figuring out who is worth listening to and who is not.
Projection Versus Reality
Think of it like this. There’s a difference between a carpenter and a handyman. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a handyman to do some projects around the house. But you also know that this handyman isn’t quite the same as hiring a professional, trained, educated, experienced carpenter. So when you’re doing repairs around the house you can hire a handyman. But if you want to put in an addition to your house, you get an architect and call the carpenter. Why? Because when it comes to an addition on your house you aren’t looking for “pretty good”, you’re looking for something done right.
The same is true for the people out there claiming to be “experts” on the internet who are really just the local handyman special. Sure, they can pull it off, but do they have the chops to really get it done right? There’s a million people out there claiming to be experts on being entrepreneurs when, in fact, the only business they’ve ever started is the one trying to sell you on their expertise. That’s not an expert, that’s a wanna-be who is projecting himself as an expert.
And for these Projection Artists the internet is the perfect place for them because they can project their so-called expertise with fancy words and good video work, convince you to buy, but in the end the quality in reality just isn’t there.
Proof is in the Pudding
And by pudding, I mean credentials.
In my world, vocational ministry, there’s been a trend for a while now– a popular trend, a trend that actually is leading to the shrinking of the church– that credentials don’t really matter.
Personally, I don’t buy that. Credentials matter now more than ever.
There’s a lot of people who are popular, who project their expertise well, but who are really just handymen when it comes to things that matter in vocational ministry. (I’m sure the same applies to other industries, but this is my context.)
They might be good preachers but that’s just one of many skills it takes to be successful at vocational ministry for the long haul. (Not to mention, when you don’t have theological training, you learn real quick that it’s easy to create an entertaining and meaningful sermon. But is it even good?) That’s why it’s important to ask questions like, “Where did this person go to school? Who trained them? Who mentored them? Who is mentoring them now? To whom is this person held accountable? Are they licensed and overseen by a denomination or board?”
Why does that matter? Because when you’re talking about heaven or hell you kind of want a carpenter and not a handyman, am I right? (Yeah, that’s a Jesus joke.)
The Gift of Discernment
In an age where Projection seems to matter more than Credentials I think it’s very important to dive deep into the gift that discernment can be for Christians today.
Discernment isn’t for choosing between right and wrong.
It’s for telling the difference between two good things. Discernment is for questions like, “How do I know the difference between what’s the right thing for me when there are many good choices? How do I know what God wants for me?”
And, I know this is scary for Protestants, but I think Ignatius has a lot to teach us on this subject. If you want to dive deep into this subject, which I do recommend doing, here is the deepest well I’ve found to drink from: The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
If you’re not into reading a book, here’s an excellent article summarizing the sections on discernment:
Before sharing a distillation of Ignatius’ insights on discernment, I would like to share three preliminary observations.
First, discernment of spirits always involves choosing between “goods” (such as between religious life and marriage) and not between good and evil. If our decision is between something good and something evil (such as cheating on a test), that’s not a matter for discernment. We just need to do what we know is right.
Second, discernment of spirits only makes sense in the context of a personal love relationship with God. Ignatius says that love expresses itself more in deeds than in words. If we love someone, we want to please them. If we love God and want to have a good relationship with God and grow closer to God, we will want to please God, serve God, and do God’s will. It’s only in this context of a love relationship with God that the question of how we know God’s will is meaningful.
Third, discernment of spirits comes out of the spiritual warfare and struggle described by the desert fathers and mothers and in the Bible itself. If there were no inner struggle, if God’s will for us was perfectly clear, there would be no need for the discernment of spirits. However, we all have to struggle with our false self, inner compulsions, selfishness, egotistical side, pride, anger, greed, fears, self-doubt, lack of trust, and being co-opted by the unchristian values of our surrounding culture. In Biblical terms the cosmic struggle between good and evil is being played out on the stage of our hearts. We have to take sides. Who are we for and against?Some Ignatian Principles for Making Prayerful Decisions, Marquette University
In a time where there are so many people out there who are completely full of it, my hope is that I’m getting better and better at discernment.
Lord, help me to know the difference between what's good and what You want for my life. Amen.