“Jerk” as a Stage of Faith?
I vaguely remember a phone conversation I had with an old friend several years ago. I don’t really remember what we talked about, but I do recall the feelings I had in the conversation as I thought about it months later. I remember being rather smug and actually kind of arrogant while we were talking. I had been discovering new aspects of my self, of God, and of how relationships worked, and I was fairly full of myself. Yet when I thought about it later, I felt really horrible about it. I realized that I was treating her rather badly, and when we got in contact with each other later on, I apologized for being kind of a jerk.
I’ve run into people like myself numerous times. It almost seems like there’s a period during spiritual development when you are legitimately growing, but your head’s getting inflated by it. You become a bit full of yourself, thinking you now have it figured out. You know more than these other people. You can hardly understand how they don’t get it (despite the fact that you yourself, quite recently, didn’t get it!).
It seems to take various forms, which has actually made me wonder if there might potentially be multiple phases. Some people are forceful and sometimes even angry in their determination to make people understand and will the same as they do. Other individuals just seem, like I was, smug or superior in their (supposed) maturity. It could well be that some have a sort of desperate, clinging plea for people to become as they are. One way or another, though, there’s a certain kind of pride that says, “I’m more mature than these other people.” Whether that pride is straight up arrogance, determined to goad others into growing, or desperate to save others might be factors of personality.
The fact that I’ve experienced this in my own journey and watched it occur in others makes me wonder if “jerk” is potentially a somewhat natural or at least expected stage of growth. This doesn’t, of course, justify being smug or unloving, but could such a phase be typical of a faith development process? Is arrogance about one’s maturity just part of the way the human psyche grows?
Perhaps not everyone goes through it exactly the same way or perhaps even at all. Maybe some people manage to make their way through unscathed by the temptation to be a jerk. But there are so many I know who simply don’t, and it seems like if you wait around long enough and they do continue to grow, that phase eventually ends, and they’re not so obnoxious anymore. Some get stuck, but others seem to come to realize just how immature that maturity is.
So what do you think? Is “jerk” a potential stage of faith? Have you seen others or even yourself go through this kind of phase?