Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Idea That We Earn Spiritual Grades Is Abhorrent to Me

I have a friend who is bi-polar and who has struggled for years with the tendency to compare herself to others.  "Objective" measures of righteousness (and I use the quotation marks intentionally in phrasing it that way) and discussion of The Plan of Happiness have been brutally hard for her to handle, especially in her depressive stages.  While we talking recently, she mentioned how difficult it was for her to hear a friend say that we earn a spiritual grade and that only those who earn an "A" will reach the Celestial Kingdom.

The following is my response to that belief: 

If that idea works for someone else, fine - but the only standard in the actual theology is doing what we are able to do, with the assurance that the Atonement makes up the difference. I don't like talking about spirituality in terms of grades in school, but I believe if someone is capable of getting a "D" and actually gets that "D" that person will be rewarded to the exact same degree as someone who is capable of getting an "A" and actually gets an "A" - and more than someone who is capable of getting an "A" but gets a "B". I taught school for a while, and I was far prouder of the "Most Improved" student in my classes than I was with the bright students who coasted to straight "A"s without any attempt to stretch themselves.  (The parable of the talents also comes to mind.)
I have twin sisters, a year younger than I.  The other six of us got A's and A-'s, while those two struggled to get B's and an occasional A and C.  I learned later that some of their teachers assumed their B's and C's were the result of lack of effort, since none of their brothers and sisters got those grades.  In reality, my sisters worked MUCH harder than the rest of us in school - and they are two of the hardest workers still to this day whom I know.  To say, in any way, that the rest of us will be rewarded above them is abhorrent to me. 

Nobody knows fully what someone else can do. We don't know fully even what we can do. We just have to try to do our best, whatever that is, and try not to let others' expectations weigh on us - particularly those who are bi-polar or prone to depression of any kind. They need to work on maintaining a handle on that tendency, to the best they can, knowing the hand they were dealt is different than those who talk of earning spiritual grades.

The people who talk about spiritual grades generally care; they just don't understand.

It's important to remember that. They really do care; they just don't understand.


Anonymous said...

I think the best way to think about it is that some of us are getting 8% and some of us are maybe at 5%. Maybe that extra awesome person is getting an 11%. Sure, some are doing better than others......but we're all failing!!!! Compared to God our capabilities are quite minuscule so it is silly to get arrogant thinking our 9% is so much better than our neighbor's 4%,
And if we are the ones who seem to be testing at a lower level than someone we compare ourselves to, we should remind ourselves that none of us are getting a passing grade.

Papa D said...

I love that framing, Anonymous.

Thank you!