You are clearly a tolerant person, who is thoughtful about the needs of other people.

So says a quiz on the Guardian web site. So it must be right — uch to the dismay of those who know me. The quiz was called are you as nice as you think you are, so that would make me nice, wouldn’t it.

Well no. I cheated. I answered how I wished to react to the questions. Not the way I would have probably acted. My answers were how I wished people would have reacted to me in the same situation.

You see the Guardian cheated too. I noticed the cheat with this question, though I already had my suspicions

You’ve just arrived at work and get chatting to a colleague in reception. He starts talking to you for ages about Formula One. You have absolutely no interest in it, but they are showing no signs of stopping! You’re getting bored, what do you do?

That’s me, the talkative one who does not know how to shut up. It confirmed my suspicions, which the Guardian admit on the results page, that all the questions are about autistic behaviour. As someone on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) this is how I would like to be treated, or at least tolerated.

Go on, take the test: Guardian Test

Dark sideThe second linked part of this blog concerns a book I am reading, The Dark Side Of The Soul by Stephen Cherry.
Subtitled An insider’s Guide to the Web of Sin, There is a section on talkativeness at the end of the third chapter, Naughty but Nice1

Cherry quotes at length from 18th century bishop Joseph Butler’s book On the Government of the Tongue. Butler says that the problem with talkativeness is not that we go out of our way to cause trouble or defame others, but that the habit of talkativeness leads us in the direction of doing so unwittingly. And that the tongue used in this way is like a sword in the hand of a madman.

I am worried here. Much of what Butler and Cherry say here sounds like autistic behaviour. I talk too much because not picking up the facial expressions and body language that say that people are bored, uninterested, or want to say something I tend to go on too much. I am aware that my behaviour sometimes is out of step with that needed for good relationships with people, but there is a difference between sin and my Asperger’s Syndrome, or other forms of autism. ASD people are likely to feel threatened if counselled in this way.

I do not have Cherry’s learning, he is the Dean of King’s College, Cambridge and Director of Studies in Theology, neither have I any knowledge of psychology or psychotherapy except as a patient, but my experience as a Christian aspie make me think that a bit of rewriting to take in ASD people is needed here.

I am not trying to be negative, I can recommend people read Stephen Cherry’s blog.

1 I an unable to cite page number as I am using an e-reader. The section in question is Location 891 at 21% in Kindle.

2 thoughts on “Tolerance

  1. Some interesting thoughts there. I wonder if part of the issue is not so much the naming of talkativeness as sin as what we do with that understanding? If the purpose of calling it sin is to make people feel bad about themselves, then I agree absolutely. ASD people are going to feel threatened – or worse. There is a very real danger that we (and they) end up concluding that they are of less worth than everyone else.

    But that’s not really the point is it? In the past year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that the cross is at least as much about shame and worth as it is about sin. In fact, shame and worth are much more prominent NT themes than are guilt and forgiveness. And shame, at its deepest, is about who we are. What we may have done or not done is only a very small part of it.

    So there is a sense in which having ASD or not having ASD is precisely what the cross is really about. If having ASD makes us talkative, then not having it will make us something else that is equally annoying or self-serving or (and this is key) subject to mockery. The point is that we are all in the same boat. We are all vulnerable. We all have weaknesses. We are all at risk of being ‘caught with our pants down’. We are all subject to shame and humiliation. What’s more, we all take a secret (or not so secret) delight in humiliating others, primarily in order to protect ourselves from the same.

    Meanwhile, the point about the image of a beaten, bloodied and crucified king is that it invites mockery. Here is humiliation at its worst. This is as far from power, authority, kingship and worth as it is possible to get. No-one will ever take this man seriously again.

    Yet God raised him up – and gave him honour and power and authority. (Philippians 2)

    What does that say? It says to me that God’s ideas about worth and value are very different from our own. Ultimately, our worth and value has nothing to do with who we are. And it’s certainly got nothing to do with what is done to us. Which gives us a pretty big clue as to what sin is really about. It’s about where we put honour and worth. If we put more value on the person who listens rather than talks, then we are just as much at fault as if we put more value on the person who talks rather than listens. That’s sin – failing to put worth and value and honour where it belongs. And freedom from sin is the realisation, not only that God has infinite worth, but that we all have infinite worth with God. Once we know that – really know it deep inside – the fact that one of us might talk ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ ceases to matter. We will love them anyway. And we will seek to use our strengths and temper our weaknesses in order to bring out the best in (or otherwise give worth and honour to) them. In other words, we don’t stop talking (or whatever) because being talkative is inherently bad. We stop it – or, rather, find some means of tempering it – because sometimes it can get in the way.

  2. Thanks, Ros.

    Actually I think that our worth and value has nothing to do with who we are, the problem is that we do not know who we are.

    We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are people in the image of God, we are people who God loves so much that he came and died for us. We are saints, with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

    God says we are wonderful, therefore we are wonderful. We are Gods perfect creation, even with ASD.

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