Competitive Spirituality.

‘Oh my Gods. She’s calling herself a Priestess now? O.K, seriously, if she’s a Priestess then I’m changing my Facebook job description to ‘Priest of the Morrigan’ right this instant…’

I’m betting that all of us have felt something like this at some point in our lives. It’s certainly something we don’t like, when we see it in other people. It’s all too easy for us to fall into a game of spiritual one-upmanship, with everyone feeling like they need to have had the most profound conversation with a Deity, or be experiencing the most intense psychic phenomenon, or even be suffering from the worst case of shaman’s sickness you EVER SAW.

It used to really aggravate me to see people behave in this way, but over the past couple of days I’ve been realizing that I have a lot in common with the many people who fall into this cycle. I think all this competitive feeling ultimately stems, not from arrogance or a drive for social standing, but from insecurity. Because if you were secure in your faith and in yourself, why would you feel the need to compete?

Insecurity is something I know a loooot about, spiritually and in my life in general. I have an anxiety disorder that means it’s pretty tough for me to speak to people face-to-face or even leave the flat on my own. My spectacular lack of confidence pervades every area of my life, and so I have a lot of sympathy for others who are feeling a similar way. I know how it feels to read a blog about someone’s clear-as-crystal chats with Loki and just feel like the most useless devotee ever. What am I doing wrong? Do I just not love the Gods enough? Do I not have enough faith? Am I just not one of those special, chosen people? But I’ve found that, on closer inspection, these people who are inadvertently making me feel about three centimeters tall have been working on their spiritual practice for decades. Yes, O.K, so some people were visited by Apollo in their dreams every night since they were three and could just chat to the land spirits as easily as they could to their preschool friends…But then again, some people have an amazing natural gift for maths, or football, or art. If my whole sense of self-worth doesn’t crumble around my ears because Einstein was smarter than me, why should I feel unbearably useless because some people have remarkable psychic gifts? No matter what gifts you were born with, you still have to work on them to turn them into anything.

The worst thing about ‘spiritual competition’ is that it actually stops people from growing spiritually. Those of us who just feel inadequate are put off and give up, and those of us who try to be the top dog all the time to buoy up our fragile confidence are so busy competing that no true growth can occur.

The answer for me has been to focus on myself and *my* spiritual practice. So long as I am working hard and improving, it doesn’t matter if someone else has a fully functioning Godphone that’s constantly off the hook. It’s also important to remember that not everyone experiences things in the same way. I have never, ever *heard* the voice of a Deity or Spirit, not like I hear a human being talk, but I do get impressions or feelings, as if I am being told something but it’s just going straight to my brain without bothering to go through my eyes or ears first. Other people will receive messages in other ways and that is just as valid. I’m new to journeying, and right now it’s almost completely visual (and rather fragmented…). Other people have completely different experiences, and it’s all good. I don’t seem to have any psychic gifts whatsoever, but I’m also rubbish at maths. Is my life destroyed because I’m bad at long division? No. So being unable to see auras, have prophetic dreams or hear other people’s thoughts shouldn’t ruin my life either.

I also feel like sometimes we need to remind ourselves that not everyone needs to be a Priestess, run a coven, start a blog, channel Spirits and make their money by performing handfastings, Reiki healing and tarot reading. The Gods want different things from different people, and we all have something to bring to the table. Psychic or spiritual gifts are not somehow better than ‘regular’ gifts like being good at poetry, sports or I.T. Maybe your ‘boring’ talent was given to you for a reason.

If you are one of those people who the Gods/Spirits/Angels etc guide or talk to in some way, then I really feel that you need to focus on what They want from YOU. Maybe They don’t want you to write a book on shamanic healing techniques after all, maybe They want you to become a nurse or a foster carer or help at a homeless shelter on weekends. All these ‘mundane’ things honor the Gods (Spirits, Angels, Ancestors…) and are just as valid and important as the more obviously ‘spiritual’ stuff. Are you doing an elaborate ritual to your patron Deity every week because GlendaTheGodspouse @ wordpress.com performs a divinely inspired three-hour ritual for Odin once a week? Stop. If it is truly meaningful for you and the Ones you worship then fine, but be sure you’re not doing it because you feel like you are not good enough unless you are ‘keeping up’ with everyone else, or so that you can brag about it at your moot this month. Maybe the Gods want prayer from you instead of ritual, or a simpler but more personally meaningful ritual, or maybe you need to focus on right action.

If the Gods, Spirits, Ancestors or other Divine/spiritual entities don’t seem to be guiding you, then that doesn’t make you a less important or worthy person. I think sometimes the Gods want us to make our own choices – perhaps it is important for your spiritual growth right now to decide things on your own. Be empowered by it and do what seems right to you. Alternatively, maybe you just aren’t able to ‘hear’ the Gods and Spirits yet. It’s not glamorous, but the remedy to that one is just work…and not being put off by the fact that ‘everyone else’ *seems* to be having a much easier time of it. Maybe they’re just trying to cover up their insecurities too. If it helps you at all, then I’m perfectly happy to admit that I’m not very good at it right now. I’m improving, but it’s slow and I’m often not sure if I’m right or wrong. I just trust that, in time, I’ll learn.

Perhaps we could choose to feel inspired by the people we would usually feel we needed to compete with, and use that to help ourselves grow instead of holding ourselves back. What are your thoughts and experiences on this?

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