I like to read famous quotations, such as the one above.
The quotations by Confucius, and others, on being a “superior man” always intrigue me. If you are not familiar with some of these, then I will share a few with you.
The object of the superior man is truth. – Confucius
The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. – Ibid.
The superior man makes the difficulty to be overcome his first interest; success only comes later. – Ibid.
The superior man always thinks of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort. – Ibid.
The superior man seeks to develop the admirable qualities of men and does not seek to develop their evil qualities. The ordinary man does the opposite of this.– Ibid.
The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability that he has. – Ibid.
The superior man is correctly firm and not merely firm. Looked at from a distance, he appears stern; when approached, he is mild; when he is heard to speak, his language is firm and decided. – Ibid.
By nature men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart. – Ibid.
The superior man acquaints himself with many sayings of antiquity and many deeds of the past, in order to strengthen his character thereby. – John Milton
Of course, the notion of a “superior” man is really someone who is elevated in his thoughts and actions. Pride, accomplishments, achievements, and accumulated riches or wealth attributable to ability or acumen, or theft and fraud, are not the outcomes of someone who is elevated in thought.
Elevation in one’s thinking requires a near great magnanimity.
Now, here is a word that you don’t hear much of: magnanimity.
Let me define it for you.
magnanimity– a loftiness or elevation of spirit enabling one to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness, and to display a noble generosity.
You see this quality in the British Royal family demeanour when in their public showings. They appear to be very gracious, humble, and big-hearted in spite of their “royalty” and opulent trappings.
Carl Sandburg, in his biographies of Abraham Lincoln, liked to stress this quality on magnanimity in his stories of Lincoln. These displays of this elevated thinking usually resulted in Lincoln engaging in self-deprecation, or poking fun of himself, to reflect a modest spirit. You will see this some of this same quality in famous figures and actors/actresses at times, when they do not believe their own, or media-inflated image of, their celebrity.
However entertaining reading such quotations and understanding what is an elevated mind, and who are some examples of it, the quote by Ernest Hemingway shows the greatest perception:
The need for Transformation. Change.
I will repeat the Hemingway quote again:
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
This quotation implies that some sort of realization, in the individual, has taken place, in which the former self is seen to be wanting, and wanting badly, in being able to live adequately above the human nature which we all possess.
This realization demands further light, in which to follow a discipline or way of life, that is elevated or above the motions of human nature, which is inherently selfish beyond normal description, and what the Bible calls, sin.
This light is called revelation.
We come to a certain truth about ourselves.
We need to be opposite of what we have been. We need to be opposite of what we are.
This is where God’s grace comes into play. By this favour from God, we come to realize that a certain discipline must be instituted to help us with living above, or elevated, our selfish, human nature of quick gratification.
Such a change in following a new discipline, can help transform us from what we were, into what we should be.
Who should we be?
Well, there is no proven track record that we can successfully be better, by being a moral, or elevated mind, or higher consciousness ….on our own.
We, as human beings, are too damaged, too corrupt, too weak, to be much more than anything more than what we are.
We need an inspiration to drive us to newer motivations and higher aspirations. Such inspiration and aspiration will create a transformation in us.
We will then be, as Hemingway states, superior to our former selves.
Realization, revelation, and… the process of transformation.
But, what is this process of transformation, really? A real transformation implies a metamorphosis. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
To be transformed… you must imitate something higher. Something higher than yourself.
Have you ever noticed this?
Animals, particularly pets, love to imitate their masters or owners. They imitate a higher creation… you, or humankind.
If you imitate them, animals lose respect for you. They know who they are and who you are instinctually.
I used to raise, break and train horses. I have seen a lot of folks, particularly young women, put a lot of emotional value with their horse or horses. Usually, depending on its emotional depth, it was not always rewarded by the horse. Unfortunately, horses are not emotion-need based as some of their human caregivers. Rather, their needs are fundamentally the “cupboard” variety of attention. Once that they get this “food” thing satisfied, and some never do…, they are capable of being of a friend; but they will always be an animal first, unless you treat them as someone who has dominion over them, or a master or owner.
You must exercise dominion or control over animals. That is the deal. This is what Adam did in the Garden. If you are an animal lover, you will never experience success in handling animals unless you are the undisputed boss.
I watch this one man on television at times, who is a Latin gentleman. He is very good with dogs. He follows the very same axioms, whether he knows or not, as is implied in the Bible. As a result, he is very highly successful with handling dogs and correcting any bad behaviours.
When you do this… exercise dominion over animals… then the animal starts to “imitate” you. Some animals, or particularly dogs, even pick up similar mannerisms as their masters. Some dog food advertisements even compare the facial figures of a respective dog with their owner.
This should not be remarkable, but a reinforcement that God put in animals, a need to imitate a higher life order.
God did this, to provide us a lesson.
We humans, need to imitate God.
Instead, we try to put God on our level. When you try to do that, one of two things can happen: one, you end up, like the animals, to have a contempt and disrespect for the higher life order, or God.
Or secondly, you try to become a God. This is the exact argument that the Serpent gave Eve…. if you eat of the Tree of Knowledge… you will become like a God!
The latter is the worst. No one can be God with the limitations and serial flaws of human nature. It is a great monstrousity…no matter how great the knowledge.
The only way to successfully imitate God then,… is to eat of the Tree of Life…., not Knowledge.
Since the Garden of Eden is no longer available, and the Tree of Life, how then are we to partake of “Life.”
Jesus made it simple. He knew the same logic that I am making. He called himself, the “way,” or discipline, “the truth,” and the “Life.”
Jesus, throughout the Synoptic Gospels, asked folks to be followers of him. He asked folks to be his disciples. To be a disciple, this implies that you must follow a discipline. To be a follower, this implies that you must follow the leader.
To be an imitator, well, this means to imitate all known facets of someone or to imitate their very best qualities and in particular, those qualities that are most attractive to you.
Jesus asked those who adhered to his teachings or believed what he had to say about God, himself, and the Kingdom of God, not only to follow him… but also to do something more.
He asked them to deny themselves.
Here is a tall order.
A lot of folks think and believe that they are following Christ… but they are much the same people that they were… before they made a profession of following Christ.
Well, they are not denying themselves.
What does it mean to deny self?
It means that you put something else FIRST.
It is not that hard. Parents frequently put their children first. This is, to that extent, a self-denial, or denial of self. Husbands may love to put their wife first. This denial of self portends a romantic notion of sorts. Wives may like to put their husband first. All of these acts are very sacrificial, or self-denying.
But Jesus commanded us to put him first. To imitate Christ, we must put God first in our lives… then Christ.
Self-denial suggests that we put on hold, or we put on “God’s altar,” all that we are, all that we can become, and all that we can be.
To deny yourself for God, and Christ, is commendable according to Jesus.
But Jesus didn’t stop there.
He asked something more.
He told his followers, or the folks that follow him, and who deny themselves, to “take up their Cross.”
Here is an interesting challenge.
Jesus didn’t tell folks to take up…. his cross….
Jesus told folks to take up their very own cross.
Hmmm… we can understand Jesus’ cross and resultant death. Christ’s passion has been made the topic of books, stories, church sermons, cinematic features, movie epics, and theatrical performances.
But, what in the heck, is supposed to be “our cross.”
I touched on this a bit awhile back in one of my earlier blogs.
A simple Cross diagram.
What is compelling about Christ talking about a “cross,” is that he was talking about one long before he was hung on one!
I am not sure that his disciples ever really caught on to his meaning until after the fact of his crucifixion.
So you have a cross. It basically is two lines that intersect. One goes up and down or vertical.., the other is horizontal, going left to right…
Where they intersect is important. It creates a dynamic of a confluence. Something like opposites meet in a juncture which stimulates conflict. This is important.
Before the two lines meet, they had been running counter to each other. When they do meet, there is conflict.
This creates the “cross.”
Hence, a “cross” is some dynamic that results in an inner conflict in our life. This dynamic is in agitation. Jesus used the image of wine to show this agitation, such as New Wine versus Old Wine.
When wine is being fermented, it is undergoing this dynamic of agitation. It is being changed from juice to a more preserved state, called wine. This process of fermentation is highly agitated. It gives off gases and an effervescence.
This is what Jesus implied by what is “our” cross.
A “cross” can mean many things. It may mean a besetting sin or fault. It may mean a fractured relationship. It may mean dealing with a handicap, physical or mental. It may be some great personal loss or grief. For some Christians, for example, it can mean a marriage that only can be scarcely tolerated.
There is no getting around this “cross.” It creates an agitation or conflict that we must deal with. This dynamic creates in us, through prayer and spiritual dedication, a greater transformation, or dependency upon God. Our cross frequently causes us to imitate the example of Christ when he was faced with his cross.
Realization, Revelation, and Imitation.
If we are “over-comers,” then we end up looking, not like a bulldog, …but like Christ himself.
May God grant us this great gift.
Thanks for reading.
Copyrighted. Joseph Spickard, 2015. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this intellectual property without prior permission from the author is prohibited.