Svithe: The Me-First Fallacy (and its amazingly simple solution)


Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as he is with you. ---Oswald Chambers

I've been thinking a lot about this issue lately, in part because of my Elna Baker posts and in part because of friends of mine and in part as I reevaluate my own thinking, and rediscovering the above quotation has gelled it together for me.

When I speak to people who are mildly or severely disenfranchised with faith, they often blame that disenfranchisement on the affliction called Other Believer's Expectations for True Believers.

Often, as humans, we make the mistake of believing that we are in fact the center of the universe, that we are in fact the archetypal human, that we are in fact perfectly average and merely typical. All of these assumptions are varieties of the same sin, an accidental, almost negative version of pride.

About ten years ago I was plotting a book written for teenaged Mormons about sex. Because I had figured out what I had needed to know when I was a teenager and I was going to take my wisdom and lay it out for the next batch of teenagers.

I'm glad I never got more than a few paragraphs written down, because the hubris of the concept appalls me now.

The whole point of this life is to figure some things out for ourselves (within doctrinal guidelines if possible, but those things are rather vague if we're being honest). If there was a single correct answer applicable to every question, we'd have nothing to figure out.

And when we do figure out an answer it feels so good that of course, being good people, we want to share. And that's when we make our mistake: assuming that the answer God has shared with ME is also therefore the same answer he would share with YOU.

Why in the world would he do that?

The reason that answer felt so good was because it was, of all possible answers, the best one for me. And I am not you.

We can also make this fallacy in regards to ourselves. Learning at age 15 that X is a huge error, then assuming that X will be an error of equal magnitude at age 45, does not necessarily hold true. Sometimes, sure. But the subtle details of life are everchanging and God knows what we need.

So the solution?

Be open to God's will for you now.
Expect God's will to differ for others.
Don't presume to judge the quality of God's various answers.

Or, at least, that's the answer I seem to have today.

What thinkest thou?

last week's svithe


  1. This should be published and distributed church-wide.

  2. .

    Well, I do think it's an argument that should at least be widely considered.

    My great concern as a Saint these days is how do we keep people in the faith? Any action or attitude I take that push lambs from the flock must, it seems to me, necessarily be sinful.

  3. This reminds me of the many, many, many lessons I've sat through on feeling the Spirit... I've always disliked them because they too often prescribe set ways of feeling you know something is right; in my experience, everyone experiences revelation differently.

    And really, it makes sense, with God's focus on the individual, that He speaks to us all in our individual ways. So He can reach us better.

  4. .

    That's a good point. It took me a long time to understand the whats and whens of Spirit-feeling.

  5. D&C 15 and 16 - They both say the same thing except the name of party being addressed, but the Lord still says,

    And I will tell you that which no man knoweth save me and thee alone

    Your post helped me see that in a better light.


  6. .

    And your comment to me. Because of their repetition, I tend to overlook those two (shame on moe) although clearly that repetition offers lessons all its own.

  7. I have the same problem with overlooking them. Shame on boeth of us.

  8. .

    We are terrible people.