“How can there be any SIN in SINCERE?” asks the quartet in “The Music Man.” We’ll let that question be our thought for the week, because it contains a crucial point in our Mission.
(Please keep in mind: These thoughts are written by a person with autism. For people with autism. And people without.)
The Mission of Saint Thorlak absolutely, positively depends on sincerity.
The Online Etymology Dictionary explains “sincere” speaks of things “whole, clean, pure, unmixed… that which is not falsified.”
It is so very important that all of our work as Missionaries of St. Thorlak be done in complete sincerity.
People with autism lack the ability to pick up on social cues that are not explicit. Oftentimes, we even miss the ones that ARE explicit. It causes so much trouble. It’s not as bad in the younger years because we have adults to guide and explain and untie our social knots for us, but as we hit adolescence and young adulthood, we are expected to navigate ourselves through the already confusing social scene. Anyone will tell you that adolescence without autism is at best turbulent and constantly changing. Best friends can morph into “frenemies” without warning, drama runs high, feelings get hurt and relationships are unstable. Autism deprives us of the ability to internalize the rules and trust that, at the end of the day, we did enough to be remembered and appreciated for who we are. Half the time, we don’t know who we are ourselves. We rely on the reactions of others to know who we are to them, and if our approval rating fluctuates wildly, or we commit too may blunders, or are constantly bypassed... we conclude we aren't worth it. Worse, if we are mocked or rebuffed, we believe we are detestable. Even if somewhere, our logical minds tell us that’s extreme, it doesn’t matter: we believe it.
People with autism put a lot of stock into rules. We count on them to know what to do. We expect them to be consistent. We over-emphasize following them, to utmost perfection, to be able to rest inside. The roller coaster changing rules of adolescent relationships is an impossible sea to sail.
Some of us deal with this by rejecting rules altogether, rebelling against the norm, and standing out in loud, angry contrast: Loners, freaks, emos. Full of rage, and lonely to the core.
Some chameleon our way into the scene and fake it ‘till we make it, but feel like hollow shells.
Some withdraw into a quiet corner and accept the loneliness as the cost of not having to deal with rules that keep changing.
All three scenarios are very common. All three are symptomatic of spiritual starvation. And, all three are deficiencies of sincerity. The first finds us pushing people away on purpose with the untruth, “I don’t NEED anyone to like me!” The second requires us to dismiss honesty in favor of enough white lies to work our way into the social scene – but we know down deep we aren’t being true to ourselves and are cheating our friends by misleading them. The third is more like a spiritual anorexia – a willing starvation, offset by the temporary relief of avoiding the ambiguity altogether. This lie is one we tell ourselves, that it's just not worth it... that we're just not worth it.
Missionaries of Saint Thorlak must pledge to SINCERELY work to combat spiritual starvation.
That is: In a manner that is whole, clean, pure, unmixed… that which is not falsified.
If you reach out in friendship to another person, you must do so in a manner that is whole, clean, pure, unmixed and not falsified.
If you are approached by a person in friendship, you must respond in a manner that is whole, clean, pure, unmixed and not falsified.
This is an absolute deal breaker.
If you reach out to another person with any trace of pretense or uncertainty, you do more harm than good. You offer them cardboard - or worse, poison - in the guise of nourishment. Your pretense will eventually become evident and reinforce all the untrue things that person has already begun to believe (such as, “Being social means being twofaced, threefaced or fiftyfaced” and “People don’t like me when they REALLY know me” and “I’m not worth knowing”).
Please note that UNCERTAINTY is included with pretense. Don’t do anything until you are ready to be completely authentic. It is much better to wait than to jump in before you are ready. We understand. We can wait. We are confident you will be ready before too long.
Thus, our takeaway:
PEOPLE WITH AUTISM: Your spirit needs to be sincerely accepted by others in order to receive nourishment.
PEOPLE WITHOUT AUTISM: Your spirit needs to be sincerely accepted by others in order to receive nourishment.
Go with the one that applies to you.
The Mission of Saint Thorlak
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak