A few posts back, we used our RPG parable to propose The Resist Factor – a numerical representation of how intensely people resist reciprocity. We are looking at this more closely now that we have played out the rest of our game. The Resist Factor is a crucial element in understanding the underpinnings of spiritual nourishment… and the beginnings of spiritual starvation.
It is worth repeating that it is equally meritorious if people are more likely to give of themselves to others (initiate) or receive others to themselves (anticipate). These traits speak to the leanings of our natural talents and are not a criticism of our behavior. The issue is the difference in intensity between the two. If our role play is at all a parable of real life, the more exclusively one acts in either giving or receiving, the higher the resistance there will be toward those who wish to reciprocate. Super-givers will strongly resist others giving to them, and super-receivers will strongly resist being received by others.
Once more, we emphasize: it is not a matter of balance; it is a matter of resistance.
It will be very helpful if we look at this concept, resistance, in terms of its meaning in electrical circuitry. Such “resistance” is, most simply, the degree to which electrical current will be impeded by the material comprising its path. Resistors are purposefully wired in to circuits to work against the flow of current. Some reasons for doing this: reducing voltage to protect extra-sensitive components from being damaged… converting electrical current into light (as in an incandescent filament)… converting electrical current into heat (as in a heating coil)… and offering variable setting control over the strength of the current (as in a volume dial or dimmer switch). Resistance is not a bad thing. It is put to good use in each of these examples.
There is also something called magnetoresistance, which is a fancy term for when electrical current is pushed back by the presence of a magnetic field. The same principles operate here as you feel when you hold two magnets together with the same polarity facing one another.
Our Resist Factor works very much like magnetoresistance, if you think of Giving and Receiving as opposite poles of a magnet. Those with extra-strength giving power resist the same pole, someone giving to them. Those with extra-strength receiving power resist being received by others. It works almost identically to the principle that opposite magnetic poles attract and like poles repel… or, in this case, resist.
Resisting others giving to us might look like this:
Resisting being received by others might look like this:
These lists are broad brush strokes of how we might resist reciprocity, knowingly or unknowingly. Any one of these behaviors can arise from numerous other factors as well. The crucial point of knowing our Resist Factor is that it is a direct indicator of our risk for spiritual starvation.
If we go back to this post from August, 2017, we recall how we imagined spiritual connection as a continuous chain, beginning with God at our source. We envisioned a chain rather than an electronic circuit to emphasize the contribution that each individual link makes to our spiritual nourishment. It is necessary to keep that imagery of chain-links, but it is also possible to conceptualize each link as a conductor of spiritual energy in the same fashion as electromagnetic current flowing through complex circuitry. Some links will transmit more readily (= higher conductivity) and others will impede the flow (= higher resistance).
Are some links in our chain resistors? Yes. Do they serve as impediments to receiving God’s signal, or are they deliberately functional, such as filaments, heating coils or volume control dials? These remain to be seen in future thoughts. For this week, we consider how our links are affected by the strength of our Resist Factor, which can reduce or block God’s signal altogether.
Simply put: If the Resist Factor is an opposing force to the flow of spiritual nourishment God sends us, it cannot fully reach its destination. The stronger the resistance, the less nourishment gets through.
The less nourishment gets through… the greater our risk of spiritual starvation.
It is as simple as that. And as complex as our habits are entrenched.
We often see only the person before us, not God-in-that-person; however, it is God who ultimately wants to spend time with us, wants to know us, and wants to lavish us with things that are both good and delightful, with the help of the people in whom His essence also dwells.
Our Resist Factor may be a matter of habit, or anxiety, or impulsivity, or an unyielding need to be in control at all times. No matter what the underlying cause may be: if we continually resist reciprocity, we actively push back a main artery of the spiritual nourishment we need to thrive as human beings.
One last, crucial piece: Super-givers [those who initiate, volunteer, offer and provide without pause and without rest] and super-receivers [those who anticipate, welcome, listen to and nurture with open hearts] are equally likely to sense strong spiritual nourishment flowing through them to others and feel very satisfied that they are doing their part to combat spiritual starvation. Yet both strongly resist nourishment flowing back toward them.
Spiritual hunger lacks the pangs we feel on empty stomachs. However, the secondary symptoms of spiritual malnourishment are very similar to those of physical hunger: agitation… restlessness… inattentiveness… pressuring others… anxiety… irritability… listlessness… lethargy… flightiness… loss of interest… loss of empathy… superficiality… distractedness… and desperation. Among many other signs.
Parables and role plays are not all that different. Both require imagining ourselves in hypothetical situations. We put forth this RPG to help us understand the concepts underlying our Mission… and our responsibilities as Missionaries.
PRAY: Heavenly Father, help me see and understand these concepts with love, and not accusation; with compassion, and not condemnation; with wonder, and not fear. It is my job right now to learn, but not yet to act. Remain with me as I ponder these ideas.
CONTEMPLATE: Does the Resist Factor make sense to you? If not, ponder what it is that does not click, and write it in the comments for this post (or, if you receive these thoughts via email, reply to email@example.com with your comments).
RELATE: For the rest of the week, each time you encounter another person, remind yourself that each person bears God’s essence… and, that this essence is given as nourishment to your soul.
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