Thursday, December 15, 2011

Most of the credit goes to you!

Time after time you will hear religious people praise God for his help in the accomplishment of their successes. Let's ignore for now (and this is difficult!) how frequently God completely ignores millions of other cases of starvation, abuse, disease and destitution. But never you mind, he's busy.

These people will say that they did something by the grace of God, or that God blessed them, or that they would be nothing without God--any number of variations. When I hear this, I get extremely frustrated, especially when it is directed towards me. I feel a lot like Eliza Doolittle, actually.

In this scene from My Fair Lady, the men are congratulating themselves exuberantly for having pulled off their goal: training the cockney Eliza well enough so that she passes for an educated Englishwoman at the ball. They completely ignore the accomplishments of Eliza herself. "Now wait, now wait, give credit where it's due. A lot of the glory goes... to you!," Higgins says to Pickering, ignoring Eliza while she is standing right there.

Last week my partner's father was commenting on how "blessed" we are. We live in a beautiful house, make good money, are generally very healthy and have a good relationship. We take care of our house, our bills, our cars, eat well and have some very nice furniture and such. He kept on and on about how everything we did was because Jesus had our backs.

The truth is, we are "blessed" because well, yes, we have gotten lucky, but mostly it's because we have been wise in managing our money, and have worked very hard to get where we are. It took me over six years to finish my college degree because I worked my way through and did not take on any student loans. We both have very little debt, and what we do have is for vehicles. We both have two vehicles, and one of each is paid for--the second could be sold to pay for itself if need be (that being said, I will never take on debt again as my financial philosophies have changed, but that's another story). We have a fully furnished office, fully furnished guest room, a 65" tv, baby grand piano, pool table, an exquisite China cabinet, and a high-end gun safe for our pistols and other valuables.

We rarely buy anything new. All of our vehicles are used, though you wouldn't know that by looking. 90% of our furniture is used, and we don't buy it unless we practically steal it. You would be shocked at how little our furnishings cost. We scour Craigslist, eBay, garage sales and antique shops, and trust me, it pays off. Practically everything used always needs a little TLC, but we're very handy, and our things look brand new. I have things that are 10 times nicer than my broke friends who don't realize they can buy used. All but a few of my fine jewelry items are pawn shop finds. I buy my clothes on eBay, at Goodwill, and at discount shops like Marshall's. If a business is going out of business, we are there to get some deals on things we need. We haggle and barter for everything. We buy one thing at a time, and it's taken us 3 or 4 years to get to where we are. I hope it is only the beginning. I drink my wine on my $75 leather couch from my $0.25 Goodwill wine glass, and look good doing it.

My point is, of the things in life that can be controlled, we can and do control them. We are very responsible. We are creative when it comes to problem solving. Sure, we have fun too, and we definitely buy stuff we don't need, but it's kept to a responsible minimum. We have not saddled ourselves with debt, and we have not burdened ourselves with children.

Nothing that we have done, have accomplished, or will accomplish in the future has anything to do with God. As Higgins says, we must give credit where credit is due, and the glory of our "blessings" is from our own blood, sweat and tears. We have worked our butts off, made [mostly!] wise choices, and it has led to a nicer life.

My father-in-law had the audacity to claim that my partner's life was saved because of Jesus protecting him. When he was a kid, he fell down a hill and collided into an edge of a picnic table with his throat. He's lucky to have not bled to death, let alone still have a voice. It was extremely traumatic for him and his family, not only physically but financially and emotionally. He had to have multiple surgeries over several years. And his own father can seriously look us in the eye and say that Jesus "protected" him. Jesus is a shitty protector, then. Maybe next time he could just prevent the incident from happening at all? My partner was saved because of receiving quick medical attention, and having some excellent surgeons. Humans did a hell of a lot more to help him out than God, and they were able to do so because of their own hard work and sacrifice for years to get their medical training.

I wish people would give themselves credit for the good things that they do. The idea that God is a silent, invisible puppeteer is beyond ludicrous. I can't tell the difference between him being his silent, invisible self, and him not existing at all. God is gratuitously given credit for all the good things, but for the bad things God is mysterious, or everything happens for a reason, or some other excuse. Convenient, isn't it? It makes no sense at all to congratulate God for my good job when others are starving. Why am I worth more than them? Why can I eat and they can't? If God works in mysterious ways, then he needs to get hit shit together, and quick, because that system is not working.

God protects and heals you... but you still need doctors and medicine.

God will get you a good job... but you still have to gain experience, get an education, prepare a resume, apply and do an interview, and you still have to show up and do quality work.

God will hear your prayers and help your relationships... but you still have to listen, compromise and show respect.

God will help you with your financial woes... but you still have to work, get your money organized, be on a budget, pay your bills and set goals.

God will help the poor and abused... but you still need to volunteer at shelters, donate money to charities and the church.

It seems that we are doing all the work here. God is like that irresponsible guy you get stuck with in speech class for a group project, who is never around to help study or prepare, yet on presentation day he wants credit for his half. And if God were really looking out for you and your family as a result of your prayers and worship to him, then statistically, believers would have better health and lives than non-believers.

If I am able to buy a car, it is because I worked and saved up money and paid for it. If I am injured and surgery saves my life, it is because of competent medical professionals and my own body's natural defenses.

There is no reason to believe that there is an almighty, all-knowing, silent, invisible being floating around, ensuring all your successes yet is mysteriously absent for failures and hardships. You'll do much better to recognize the reality of your own power and creativity, hard work and ingenuity.


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