I’ve discovered the limits of my intellect too many times. Whether it be in my marriage, or with my kids, or just dealing with life, my intellect and rationale fail me, repeatedly. They torture me, really.
I think that things should be a certain way, that my kids and wife should do certain things, that life should bend to my desires, that I should handle it all better. I should all over myself and everyone else. It’s not natural.
This can be mundane stuff. My daughter is too upset, according to my calculations, over her broken toy. The person in front of me is driving like an idiot. What the heck is taking the guy behind the deli so long!?
All these expectations create tension between what I think should be and what is. As obvious as this is, letting it all go, is hard – even though it makes me unhappy.
There may be brief moments of twisted pleasure from such feelings as superiority, pride, ego, anger that rationale can bring. But these ultimately crush grace, humility, intuition, compassion – things of real and lasting power. Intellect and reason are good, but they have their place, and quite frankly, it’s rarely with people. Grace, love, and patience are far better tools.
My focus on reason, what’s normative, what’s reasonable, is not rationale. Life doesn’t work that way. Despite this, I still rely on intellectual knowledge over intuition – God’s voice – more than I care to admit. I need to exercise my grace muscles. Fortunately, there are always opportunities to practice.
I’ll end with a quote from the Medieval monk Thomas A Kempis (1380-1471):
All perfection in this life is accompanied by a measure of imperfection, and all our knowledge contains an element of obscurity. A humble knowledge of oneself is a surer road to God than a deep searching of the sciences. Yet learning itself is not to be blamed, nor is simple knowledge of anything whatsoever to be despised, for true learning is good in itself and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a holy life are always to be preferred. But because many are more eager to acquire much learning than to live well, they often go astray, and bear little or no fruit. If only such people were as diligent in the uprooting of vices and the planting of virtues as they are in debating the problems, there would not be so many evils and scandals among the people, nor such laxities in communities.
Reason, intellect, and knowledge are all good. But without grace, love, and compassion – and “A humble knowledge of oneself,” we easily go astray.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson