Monday, October 24, 2016

Being Avoided Is Discouraging

It should not need to be said that being avoided is discouraging, but when it comes to exposing the core reason why Aspies usually don't find a church where they feel comfortable, this needs attention.

Most Aspie Christians stay with a church for a few years and just tolerate it with hopes that it will get better. It never does. They seek counseling sessions with the Pastor to express how lonely they feel in the church. The typical response is, "people avoid you because they sense that you don't feel comfortable being around others." Notice it's not said, "you avoid people because you sense that they don't feel comfortable around you."

Both of these statements are true:
  • "I avoid people because I sense that they don't feel comfortable around me."
  • "People avoid me because they sense that I don't feel comfortable around them."
But only one is the symptom and the other is the cause. By the end of this post, it will be apparent which one is which.

The question is, "Who does God expect to create the atmosphere of comfort? The newcomer or the established group? The established group has the support network. The newcomer does not.

The established group shares the same philosophy that wrongly justifies for each member a reason to avoid the newcomer. Since none of them feel comfortable with the newcomer, all will blame the newcomer. They presumptuously believe the newcomer should feel comfortable with them since they're all comfortable with each other. This eases their guilt.

Just because some newcomers may feel comfortable doesn't mean every newcomer does. Those who are uncomfortable arrive in this condition because of reasons unknown to the congregation. Each new congregation can easily exasperate this problem.

A clique will expect their discomfort from the newcomer's presence to diminish at a much faster pace than realistically possible for the newcomer to acquire comfort.

Being in a comfortably established in a group is nothing like being the outsider. Awkwardness is going to be far more long lasting for the newcomer.

The longer someone has been an outsider, the more established his or her discomfort around strangers will be.

As time goes on, the level of discomfort the newcomer feels from being around another clique increases. This is inevitable due to the unequal balance of intensity in discomfort.

Using the analogy of an abused dog, most people would not hold the same expectation for a dog that's been socialized as a puppy in a proper environment versus one which has not.

A church group cannot judge what effect past experiences have had on a newcomer. Nor are they fit to make any judgments on how quickly the newcomer should stop feeling uncomfortable around them.

People do what they do because they can. They can when they're united. An isolated individual is as vulnerable as an animal separated from the herd.

Animals will turn against their own kind, when it's too different. It's natural for people to like those like themselves. The more different and awkward a newcomer is, the more likely discomfort will increase in the atmosphere of his (or her) presence.

The congregation thinks, "We're not uncomfortable around others. You're the one who's uncomfortable around others, so it's your fault we feel this way." This becomes more apparent during the coffee hour after the service.

Initially, "mingle time" appears to go well. But it doesn't take long before the spark of mingle time dies out. Once this happens, it becomes undeniably obvious to the newcomer he (or she) is not going to ever fit in. In fact, the longer the newcomer tries to blend, the more awkward he (or she) will feel over time because of it.

This vicious cycle the newcomer repeats with each new church only serves to make it more unlikely he (or she) will fit in with the next new church. No church will know this is what such people go through because their acceptance is established and no newcomer dares to tell any church this is the guaranteed pattern, especially knowing how much more uncomfortable he'd (or she'd) feel if he (or she) gave any hint of thinking that the church wasn't so Christian after all in their love for their brother (or sister) in Christ.

For the churches who may think they're the exception, there's the "ask for a prayer partner" test. The buck stops at the pastor and the excuses vary:
"There are Christians in the Middle East who have to live without having another Christian in their life," "Someone in your group will be your prayer partner." (Ask me months later who it is and I'll say, "I forgot. I'll let you know later, when I remember." Later never comes.), etc. 
Generally speaking, the end result remains the same. No prayer partner.

An outsider often times end up perceiving Hebrews 10:25 differently than those settled within a congregation. "Don't neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some. Encourage one another." The second half explains the first. To encourage is to comfort. When you've got Christians avoiding you because they sense you don't feel comfortable being around them, these Christians will only provide you with discouragement. This is what being avoided does. Just because a congregation gathers doesn't mean it is meeting together with the entire body.

It's easy for people to say someone who stops going to church is sinning by doing so. It takes humility for someone established within a congregation to consider himself (or herself) as possibly practicing sin by not developing the habit of encouraging a newcomer's presence long enough for him (or her) to overcome his (or her) discomfort over being around "the regulars."

Newcomers don't normally leave people who encourage them. They usually leave because they're discouraged. The congregation isn't discouraged by his (or her) quitting attendance. If they were, they'd be trying to encourage the one who left to come back. This same principle applies to couples who break up. Someone who's relieved by a relationship breaking up doesn't continue trying to make it work.

If newcomers lacked the desire to fellowship with other Christians, they wouldn't be in the habit of trying to find a church where they feel wanted. However, any habit that goes unrewarded over a long period of time will eventually become extinct.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

How Neurological Differences Affect Our Christian Witness

If we don’t understand how neurological differences affect our Christian witness, most likely we’ll disappoint God in this area. This applies to both Aspies and NTs. If our aim is to be a good witness, our focus will be on something we’re doing rather than on who we are in Christ. Distorted values make us dysfunctional Christians. Our sense of being of value to God doesn’t depend on what we do, but rather on who we are in Christ. Looking at who we are in Christ keeps us humble and equips us to esteem others better than ourselves. Without this lowliness of mind, attempts at being a good witness will be counter-productive.

A faulty comprehension of Aspergers destroys the possibility for a NT Christian to draw an unsaved Aspie to the Lord. A faulty comprehension of NTs by Aspies has this same destructive effect. NTs create and perpetuate distorted perceptions of Aspergers. Thanks to this bias against Aspies, myths about Aspergers continue to spread. The myth Aspies are being fed about NTs is the idea that NTs are socially superior beings. The correct view is each culture is socially different. One is not superior over the other, even though too many NTs think so.

NTs judge Aspies by what they can see. They’re incapable of knowing why they see what they do about Aspies, so they make assumptions to fit their mindset. If their mindset about Aspergers is negative, then their opinions about Aspies will also be negative. If their mindset about Aspergers is neutral, then they’re ready to apply 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to readjust their approach for the sake of the gospel so they may win those who are different. Christian Aspies need to be the same way with unsaved NTs.

We gather from Paul's words in 1Cor 9:19-23 that Jews and Gentiles are two different cultures. So are NTs and Aspies. God does not view one as superior over the other. Imagine if Jews had myths about Gentiles like NTs do about Aspies. They’d be impotent (not important!) witnesses. NTs are incapable of thinking like Aspies and vice versa. A dog can’t think like a cat and vice versa, but they can learn to live with each other in the same environment. They can even love each other and enjoy one another. Churches can have this same harmony with a neurologically mixed congregation, but not if they can’t see the ways in which they may be insulting.

Can you see what makes this statement (said by a NT Christian about Aspies) arrogant?:

"If someone comes to me with poor social skills and I reject them, I've sinned - they didn't. So, if the Lord needs to bring people into my life who are somewhat incompetent, who in terms of communication wise are not the greatest, in order to teach me how to be more accepting of people, then that could potentially also be another benefit." 

Did you spot the myth he embraces about Aspergers? The words that reveal his arrogance and ignorance are ‘poor’ and ‘incompetent’. They’re judgmental, subjective (relative), and opinionated (biased). The accurate way to describe Aspergers is to say Aspies are as equally competent to communicate as NTs. Just because social skills are different does not make them poor.

Every culture forms their own unique social skills. Because a deaf person uses sign language to communicate, does this mean he has ‘poor’ social skills and is ‘incompetent’ to communicate? To embrace such a myth and arrogant attitude does not fit with Philippians 2:3 […let each esteem other better than themselves]. It does the opposite. It has the hearing person esteeming himself as being being better than the deaf person. Because the hearing culture is the majority, it mistakenly assumes the deaf culture supports cochlear implants. Hearing people fail to see how insulting this is. They don’t bother to enter the deaf world to see things from a deaf person’s perspective. They’d rather project themselves when they esteem themselves more highly than deaf people. Arrogance makes the hearing mind-blind to knowing deaf people think differently than the hearing group.

Arrogance seeks to unwittingly morph invalid assumptions into facts. Throughout history, this is what humans do. It’s up to the ‘suppressed’ race to not allow this. The non-suppressed too often are not conscious of being rude. This lack of awareness on their part can lead them to mistakenly accuse the suppressed group as being rude. Instead of attacking the miscommunication occurring equally by both parties, who someone is gets attacked. Aspergers is who someone is. Not some ‘disorder’ he has. The internet is saturated with toxic bias against Aspies to epidemic proportions!

Since it’s human nature to return insult for insult, rudeness attracts rudeness in return. Everyone easily detects arrogance coming from others towards them. Only by the grace of God do we detect it in ourselves and realize how we’re alienating the other person. Aspies are constantly given the message they’re socially incompetent. Aspies want to know how and why NTs think this about them, much more than NTs care to know how and why many Aspies think NTs are socially incompetent. This would be the other way around if Aspies were the majority and NTs were the minority. The communication skills NTs possess are ‘incompetent’ in an Aspie culture. If this wasn’t true, Aspies wouldn’t be puzzled over why NTs act as weird as they do.

Ignorance permits barbaric treatment. An accurate education promotes preservation. Animal sanctuaries are not created by ignorant judgmental people. Ignorance comes from ignoring. Ignore sincerely wanting to know how and why neurologically different people (i.e., Aspies) think as they do and the result is eugenics (extinction) rather than preservation (valuing life). Misjudging others is a form of protecting ignorance and perpetuating it.

Humble people are willing to do what’s uncomfortable and unnatural. They think about how to converse. When conversing is not natural and instead is strange (different), some people become so uncomfortable they cannot continue. Some muddle through. Some excel. Those who argue do so because they want to converse, but don’t want to listen, learn, and work to understand. They would if they realized it is more important for the unsaved person to feel appreciated and respected than it is for saved people to do so. As Christians, we already know we are nothing apart from Christ. Those who haven’t learned this yet, are certainly not going to be drawn to the gospel by Christians who also haven’t learned this. Instead, arguing and/or alienation is the result.

The TLB paraphrases Paul’s approach like this:

“When I am with the Jews I seem as one of them so that they will listen to the Gospel and I can win them to Christ. When I am with Gentiles who follow Jewish customs and ceremonies I don’t argue, even though I don’t agree, because I want to help them. When with the heathen I agree with them as much as I can, except of course that I must always do what is right as a Christian. And so, by agreeing, I can win their confidence and help them too. When I am with those whose consciences bother them easily, I don’t act as though I know it all and don’t say they are foolish; the result is that they are willing to let me help them. Yes, whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”

The MSG paraphrases Paul’s approach this way:

“I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.” 

The way to paraphrase this approach Paul uses in the context of neurologically different cultures is (assuming he’s NT):

“When I am with Aspies, I seem as one of them. I don’t argue even though I don’t understand their culture, because I want to help them. I agree with Aspies as much as I can, as long as I do what is right as a Christian. I don’t act as though I know more than they do or as if I’m wiser or smarter than them. I try to find common ground with them. I enter their world to learn how I may see things from their point of view.”

If Paul was an Aspie, the above would be applied in reverse.

In a reply I made on February 24, 2016 to a comment, I said focusing on being a good witness actually has the opposite effect because the focus is on self and not Jesus. We need to approach others with the mindset of Philippians 2:3. Christians, being human as we are, can easily get effect and cause subtly twisted backwards. Jesus never asked His Heavenly Father to show Him how He could be a good witness. The reason He didn’t need to do this was because He was humble. Walking in the Spirit can’t be done unless we’re humble.

It may seem 1Cor 9:19-23 requires us to focus on how we can be a good witness, as if that will cause us to become one. 1Cor 9:19-23 is actually the effect of abiding by Philippians 2:3. Only when we bypass esteeming others better than ourselves, does applying 1Cor 9:19-23 backfire. It backfires because there is no empathy or compassion due to ignorance.

Aspies also judge NTs by what they can observe. Aspies know they don’t know why NTs do what they do. They don’t try to assume to know. This is one reason why there are no myths about NTs created by Aspies. Adult Aspies don’t study NT children to see why they’re odd, but there are some Aspies who do study NT adults to try to understand why NTs function as they do. Aspies appreciate honesty, but because they’re rarely going to get a straightforward answer to the bottom line reason for why NTs think or behave as they do, they’re forced to have to guess.

In God’s eyes, there are only two types of people. Either someone is saved or they’re not. Modern secular society divides people neurologically. Either someone is neurotypical or they’re not. Too many NTs view being neuro-A-typical as something the world needs deliverance from. Those who misjudge Aspies as being “socially incompetent” are hiding from their own arrogance and insecurities.

Imagine a church filled only with Aspies. Then along comes a NT to join their congregation. How drawn to Christ is this NT going to feel if the Aspies think this visitor is beneficial to them because it helps them to be more accepting of someone who is somewhat incompetent to communicate?

Communication is a two-way street. When it fails, it fails because neither side knows how to comprehend what the other is communicating. People like people like themselves. Even if miscommunication didn’t exist, motives are always invisible. Why someone does what he does is not for anyone to judge. Only God can fully comprehend both NTs and Aspies.

Just because a message is interpreted correctly is no reason to assume to know why someone different acts or thinks as they do. Fools make assumptions when they don’t know. A wise person doesn’t.

Basically, the ONLY trait that differs Aspies from NTs is the way thoughts are processed. Windows and Mac computers have different operating systems. Put garbage data in either system, and garbage is what comes out. Arrogant pride is garbage. A humble heart is precious regardless of what neurological operating system it functions through!
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