Moving towards God.
This topic includes many subcategories. This one is on love. There will be others on prayer, ego and logismoi, and forgiveness later on.
That we move towards deification – move towards unity with God – is far more important than how we do such a thing. Obviously, some things are excluded. One generally does not reach unity with God by going on a killing spree.
Connecting to God is the most important. We would prefer a neat, organized, structured theology, resulting in a clean, defined path with obvious milestones, but the very fact that it isn’t, that it isn’t any such thing that moves to deification, that is our salvation. It sets us free to move towards that deification in any way we can, instead of frustrating ourselves in attempting to do what we can’t, in the full knowledge that God already knows and understands us.
Attempting to force feelings, emotions, and even behaviours does not work. Imitating behaviour in the parish may help in blending in more efficiently, but often does not help us in moving towards God. Those of us with high functioning autism – and especially the women – can be quite good at imitating and blending in. The downside is that autism isn’t visible, and the better we are at blending in for a time, the more sure many are that we’re just pretending the autism thing. Remember that they cannot see the amount of energy it costs us to appear even halfway normal, and the times where we cannot manage it may come as a shock to them.
Although the Orthodox Church does not, in any way, promote emotionalism, there is a certain element of emotion in prayers, even in pre-written ones. To some of us, having pre-written prayers ready to read may be a great help. The practice of the Jesus prayer may help or hinder – depending on how it is done. To some, again, the repetition may be heaven and be exactly their thing. To others, who do better with seeing things written down rather than heard or recited, it may pose problems.
Once again, a sensible priest can be a great help with this.
Orthodox theologians come in many flavours, and reading their work may result in finding some who may be of help to your specific situation. We aren’t all the same either. Long live diversity!
Each flavour is a different treatment for our spiritual injuries and illnesses. After all you may have the (spiritual) flu and I have a (spiritual) compound fracture of a leg bone. We both need treatment. But very different treatment.
To the nerds among us: there’s nothing wrong with being a nerd. If you connect to God by, for example, pondering the genetic makeup of ferns, by all means, do. Safeguard against science becoming a distraction from God, but at the same time, science can be a great tool towards God, as well, since science essentially studies and appreciates God’s creation.
What’s love got to do with it?
It is, of course, a gross misconception that we cannot love. Empathy and love are not the same thing, and trouble with empathy does not mean we’re incapable of love.
However, like with many things, the expression of it is often different in neurotypicals. The constant demand for love, and more importantly, the expressions of love that are standard can very quickly exceed our capacity. Not all expressions of love by neurotypicals are recognizable to us as such, but neither are ours to them.
Remember that all love comes from God. He’ll loan us the use of it when needed. After all, ALL love – neurotypical as well – originates with God. Even loving God we do with the love that comes from Him – in the end, we’re only using what is already His, in order to give Him what already belongs to Him.
To many of us, love is expressed in responsibility, integrity, reliability – not warm fuzzy feelings. Perhaps not even in genuine divine emotion, and while that’s a pity, responsibility, integrity, and reliability are also aspects of God, and just as necessary. They are most certainly not an ‘inferior’ expression of love.
Neurotypicals, to us, often seem to lack these. This is actually not the case – they do not intend to be unreliable and untrustworthy, and in their own mind they aren’t.
Politeness requires lies. Little white lies that are still lies. The problem is that there is only one truth about any given situation or subject, but there are hundreds of ways to lie about it. Which one out of the hundreds of lies is the ‘right’ one for that situation? It makes far more sense to go with truth, and that’s where we often get into trouble.
Words, to them, simply do not carry the same weight as they do to us. They say them carelessly, forget them as soon as they have left their lips. That which, to us, sounds like a solid intention to do something, they won’t remember ten minutes after they’ve declared the intention. Dealing with neurotypicals requires a lot of patience, checking, rechecking, and checking again to make sure. A message, to them, doesn’t consist only (not even mainly) of words. They rely on those far more elusive gestures that convey it, ones that we tend to miss. They don’t, in general, do it on purpose and genuinely do not understand the pain they cause, as we do not understand the pain we cause.
We’re the same, really. Only different.
So show them you care in the way you know how. In the end, they will reap the benefits, even if they cannot recognize it as love. If you are always on time for any job for which you’ve volunteered, and see it through to the end, it may not look like love to them, but they will appreciate it. Christ only says to love our neighbour as ourselves. He didn’t put in that the neighbour gets any input in *how* we fulfill this commandment. If only He had – then the people around us would be required to act towards us with perfect clarity, consistency, and would never, ever be late.
But He didn’t. So all of us, autistic and neurotypical alike, can only love each other the best we know how.
Joe: Being honest overruling being polite I believe is where Autistic people get the reputation of lacking empathy. I have found people tend to tell me what they think I want to hear instead of telling me what they think and know. So over the years I have come to not believe what others say. I instead wait to see what actions come after their words. Actions seem to be the goal standard for honesty while words are about trying to be polite- Thus words are useless in most settings. Little *white lies* are not so little and are LIES! Autistic’s feel the truth is always better, and work to be as tactful as possible without resorting to lying for politeness sake.