The Semantics of Spirituality

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:1-4

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” – Mark 9:35

So what does this mean? First of all, to understand the sort of servant leadership to which Jesus is referring, we have to understand the semantics of both pride and humility. Pride is defined as “self-respect and self-esteem;” which is something that is important for all of us to possess. However, this important characteristic deviates from its meaning when it becomes arrogance; or taking our self-respect and self-esteem and perverting it into a belief that we are better than or above others. Then it becomes not only a “sin,” but the cardinal sin of the seven deadliest.

This is an honest mistake for most of us because we tend to go from one extreme to the other before we make our way to the middle; where wisdom lies. For example, those of us who have had terribly low self-esteem may take any accomplishments and exaggerate them to ourselves to make us feel better. The only problem is that, in the long run, we do not feel better because we have just created a different way to separate ourselves from others. I remember the early days of my spiritual journey, when I was just learning that I had value and worth in God’s eyes. I call those days the “I’m a child of God and you’re not” days. The meaning is self-explanatory. Humility is defined as “a modest view of one’s importance.” This means I’m a child of God; and so are you. So, in essence the meaning of pride and humility are the same: healthy self-esteem with a modest view of one’s importance. That’s the way with all seeming polarities.

This brings me to another word that needs semantic clarification: “sin.” I don’t really like to use this word because it has taken on religious and dogmatic connotations. I prefer to use the meaning of the word; which is to “miss the mark.” But if we can miss the mark, what is the mark? Jesus says the mark is to “be converted and become as little children.” Obviously, we can’t literally become children again, but we can become teachable and open-minded; as little children. The mindfulness people call this “beginner’s mind.” It is of utmost importance that we remain open and teachable; and the destroyer of this open-mindedness is arrogance; because it convinces us that we have arrived and have nothing more to learn. We’re all eternal beginners in the understanding of the ways of Love.

Greek philosopher, Epictetus said, “It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows.” Is that ever the truth! Jesus said the same thing when he said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” He’s not talking about worldly riches, he’s talking about being stuffed full of what we think we already know. This brings an awesome Mother Teresa quote to mind: “God cannot fill what is already full.” So this is the mark of humility; to be open-minded and teachable with healthy self-esteem and a modest opinion of one’s importance.

A Course In Miracles gave me an innovative way to look at the word “sin” in saying, “If a mind perceives without love, it perceives an empty shell and is unaware of the spirit within … Darkness is a lack of light as sin is a lack of love.” I can relate to this. As a matter of fact, something happened last week that gave me the idea for this message.

I work for a government agency and am always required to wear my identification badge while on work property. This day, I pulled in the parking lot of work, looking for a parking place, and there was only one available. However, a woman had her door open; which prevented me from parking. I rolled down my window and asked her to shut her door so I could park. She stated that she could not because she was waiting for help to come and jump her battery. I was in a hurry, so I flashed my badge at her and told her I needed to park. She responded by looking helplessly at me and saying she was sorry. I left to find another parking spot.

I am so grateful that my ego does not usually get the last word in situations. Just I drove off to look for another parking place, I heard the Spirit say to go back and apologize. It said, “as a matter of fact, go back, apologize, and jump her yourself.” I’m past the days of resisting these sorts of directions; so I went back to apologize and help. I knew it was the right move because, when I returned, she was crying. My haughtiness had made her cry. Anyway, I started trying to help her, in pouring rain, but my cables were too short. Suddenly, two men rolled up on a pick-up truck to offer help and longer cables. They had been sitting in front of the barber shop across the street, watching us, and decided to help.

This is a perfect example of being open to new information. If I wasn’t listening to God, I would have parked my car, justified my rudeness, and gone on with my day; leaving her in tears. With God’s input, we had a community experience that was quite frankly joyful. My inner experiences are always better when my ego is not the author of my attitudes and actions.

My whole spiritual journey has been about letting go of old ideas that new ones may come. I’ve been at it so long that even ideas that were once new had to eventually be released; that even newer ideas could follow. So, being willing to set aside what I think I know that I may have a new experience is what it means to make the mark. This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience momentary lacks of love for others, but it does mean that God’s grace is sufficient to adapt us to the ways of God that we may be last of all and servant to all; to know abundance in the kingdom within.

Namaste and Amen

Paige Thomas DeHart



“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23

Jesus was full of all sorts of mysterious sayings. Many theorize that he must have somehow studied in India to have teachings that are so like their wisdom traditions. My theory is that he was a fully enlightened being, here for evolutionary purposes, and the reason his teachings sound like the esoteric teachings of India is because they are true and were spoken to him by God. When your eye is good, which means when your eye only perceives truth, your whole body is full of light. Jesus’ whole body was full of light; as ours can be also.

But what does that mean and how can we get there? First, we must be dedicated to Truth. “But I am already a truthful person,” you may say. I’m not talking about surface truth. I’m talking about self-honesty and the things we tell ourselves about ourselves. Emmet Fox said, “God is I AM THAT I AM, and you are I AM; and you make your own destiny and your own fate by the things that that you attach to that I AM, for that is what you really believe about yourself.”

In the textbook for Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the most liberating sentences says, “So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.” The writers of the text are referring to the situations in our lives that have made them unmanageable, but Jesus works from the inside out. He’s not so concerned with our actions as he is with the thoughts that got us there. That’s what “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” means. Thoughts are things; and every action begins with a simple thought.

The problem is, though, that we start thinking long before we can examine our thoughts. Basically, our belief systems are created by small children. I, for example, convinced myself that my Mommy didn’t love me because she brought home a baby sister. That sounds like an outlandish example, but our belief systems about ourselves, and everything, are created by the influences of our families and culture.

A Course In Miracles says, “Everything that comes from love is a miracle…You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your creator. Everything else is your own nightmare and does not exist. Only the creations of light are real.”

So, the first step in creating a belief system built on truth is to discover and discard the untruths whose foundations were created in childhood and adolescence. These are our made-up nightmares. The best way to begin this process is to examine every thought we have about ourselves and then to submit the thought to this question, “Was this thought created with love or fear?” “Mommy doesn’t love me” was created by fear.

I was born in 1961 when women were to be seen and not heard; and were expected to be pearl and high-heeled-wearing servants of men. The blatant message to us girls was that you must look pretty and act demure to get a man (which also implied that getting a man was the goal!). Unfortunately, because of being separated from my mother at age 8, I developed a serious weight problem and was considered unacceptable by my parents and peers. I was once told, “You’re so fat and ugly, no one is going to ever look at you.” That sentence became my inner mantra. It informed every thought I had about myself. I discovered that drugs and alcohol could keep the self-loathing at bay, but once I started trying to sober up in the mid-eighties, the thoughts, which had become the voices in my head, became more unbearable than ever.

I entered the spiritual path at age 25. At that time, I was exposed to the writings of Emmet Fox and Louise Hay. Both wrote about affirmations: thoughts to help program new ideas about myself. I decided that my new mantra would be “I love myself and accept myself just the way I am.” Unfortunately, when I began, the affirmation was always rebuked with a resounding “You fat slob!” I did not understand then that saying no to the lie was just as important as saying yes to the truth. This is what Jesus meant when he said to first clean the inside of the cup; before adorning the outside. To affirm positive statements without the preparational denial of the untruth is to put new wine in old wineskins. If you’re not sure how to detect the untruths, try sitting in silence for awhile and pay attention to the clamor that tries to distract you.

Back to the story: I continued to do affirmations for over three years before I made a real turn in my thinking about myself. But finally, one day I walked to the mirror and saw something I had never seen before: a valuable and worthwhile person who was doing the best that she knew how with the information she had at the time. On that day, when I said the affirmation, I meant it; and my life began to change for the better.

Doing the vigilant work of denying negative self-talk and adding positive in return is hard work, but it’s worth it because it is the foundational change that led to a willingness to examine my thoughts about everything. It turns out that I had believed many things in my core that were not true or healthy. Today, I am a completely different person than I was when my journey began; because I learned to change my thinking which changed my worldview; just as A Course In Miracles promises, “Miracles honor you because you are lovable. They dispel illusions about yourself and perceive the light in you. Thus they atone for your errors by freeing you from your nightmares. By releasing your mind from the imprisonment of your illusions, they restore your sanity.”

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” So next time you catch yourself thinking, “Nobody likes me, I can’t do anything right, or I’m a failure,” remember that those are thoughts that are made from lies. Use love to create the truth by affirming, “I am a valuable and worthwhile person. I matter and I have a right to be here. Nothing can stop me from accomplishing my goals except my limited beliefs in myself and God;” that your “eye” will be good and your whole body will be full of light.

Namaste and Amen

Paige Thomas DeHart


%d bloggers like this: