Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Alienation: What is it and what does it Cost

Any good manager must be aware of what is happening in each area of his domain. To not be aware of what is happening in one area might undermine the entire enterprise. He must also ensure that the different parts are working in harmony.

The same principles pertain to our individual lives. If we are alienated from certain parts of ourselves, we will not be able to function properly.

Why are we alienated from ourselves? There might be certain parts we cannot accept. They are just too painful or too disruptive. We therefore try to bury feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.

However, if we are alienated from certain parts of ourselves, we will also be alienated from others. If there are certain parts of ourselves we cannot accept, we will also be unable to accept them when we see them in others. If we cannot tolerate failure in ourselves, we will be uncomfortable when we see it in others.

We are also alienated from ourselves when we adopt a philosophy that refuses to harmonize with the rest of our lives. The writer and apologist, Francis Schaeffer, cites Sigmund Freud’s alienation from himself. Freud was a materialist. For him, human experience was reduced to a series of bio-chemical reactions. Love was reduced to the sexual impulse. Freud understandably wrote to his fiancée:

  • When you come to me, little Princess, love me irrationally.
To love Freud rationally was to understand that her feelings of love were no more bio-chemical responses. Therefore, Freud wanted his fiancée to regard her feelings as irrational – as more than just robotic reactions, as, instead, impregnated with the fullness of meaning.

Freud had a schizoid worldview. His loving feelings were alienated from his materialistic beliefs. Only irrationality could bring them together. He wanted to believe in his feelings, but his worldview prevented him from affirming the message articulated by these feelings.

Similarly, I have often asked college students, “Is it objectively and absolutely wrong to rape?” As easy as it should be to answer this question, it caused considerable discomfort. Why? The mental and emotive parts were at odds and alienated. While their mind informed them that there is nothing absolutely wrong, their feelings offered a very different answer. Answer?

When we experience such dissonance, the natural and healthy response would be to resolve the dissonance by bringing our thoughts into harmony, but they could not. Why not? They had alienated themselves from the voice of their discordant feelings.

Jesus explained this costly failure as the product of our love for the wrong things:

  • This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)
We have condemned ourselves. Why? Schaeffer explains that we have rejected our appointed role, our station in life:

  • Thus, in rebellion, not staying within the circle of what man is, but trying to move into the circle of the existence of God, man falls crushed within himself at every turn.
When we decide that we are going to be the captain-of-our-own-ship, we reject God – His oversight and boundaries – and reap the consequences of our rebellion against the truth. We no longer want to listen to what our own voices are telling us. We harden ourselves against our guilt, shame, and even what is so patently obvious – that rape is absolutely wrong. We also harden ourselves against God’s inner voice, which has become an unwanted interference and a threat to our autonomy.

Yes, we are the captain-of-our-ship, but it is a rudderless and directionless ship, without a light, map, or even a destination.

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