Last night my church had a presentation on the Internet and social media. I attended because I thought my job (and the many hours it requires me to be online) might give me some insights into the subject that may benefit others. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered afterward, which got me thinking about a time in my life when I embarrassingly yelled at God — and the lesson that followed shortly afterward.

Roughly six years ago, my life was filled with many personal and professional transitions. There were stresses involved, and on one bad day I pulled the car over to the side of the road and screamed, “What the f***! I’m just trying to be a good person! What the F***! Why are you doing this to me?!”

Without going into details, something I would deem miraculous happened following that outburst, which would lead me to believe the following: We weren’t mean to “just” be “a good person” because we were meant to be saints. We obviously cannot all die as saints, but that is what we must strive to be.

We live in a world where the Internet is omnipresent and the rule of thumb is that it gives us what we want faster … and faster … and faster. Anything you crave, the Internet can provide in a hurry. If you want to be a saint, you have access to all of their wisdom. If you want to explore all sorts of fiendish behavior, then your desire is just a click away. Whatever you want to put into the infinite caverns of your heart, social media can supply — good, evil; love, hate; peace, violence; temperance, concupiscence, and on and on.

The point is that “just” being “a good person” is never good enough, but especially not in a world where technology allows for hyper-exposure to our worst vices. Perverts become hyper-perverts. Partisans become hyper-partisans. Rage is intensified, and flesh’s already-ravenous desire for flesh is awash in images of bodies … and bodies … and bodies.

It is my prediction that in the years ahead you will see a small cadre of rare spiritual pearls emerge within a black sea of ghouls already torturing and raping people live on social media, beheading people in the Middle East and North Africa, and living only for hate.

That is why “just” being “a good person” is not good enough. From all sides you are being bombarded with spiritual blows to sap and warp your will. Invisible sludge is being thrown in your spiritual eyes and shoved down your throat because in time it blinds a man and clogs the arteries of his soul.

The answer to all of this is to strive — every day — to become more like the saints. The process is painful, but it is a good pain. I promise.

Perhaps the best way to explain the spiritual growth that is needed in this time and this place in history, I should point to the old bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Witness the physical and emotional strain he imposed upon himself while sculpting the perfect body and winning the Mr. Olympia title. Anyone who exercises knows that pushing the body — the finite body — to its limits is painful. Now consider doing that to the spirit, which is infinite.

Virtue is something that is very real and tangible, despite being invisible. It paradoxically has a kind of mass and a weight to it even though it’s not something that can ever be measured. The reason for this is because virtue is part of the realm of the infinite. The human heart contains conduits to the infinite  — chambers to the divine, if you will — but your body as a whole is, again, finite. That is why as one grows in spirit it often feels like his body is under enormous strain.

Like the weightlifter who adds more iron to his routine, the man or woman who engages in strenuous spiritual exercise brings themselves to tears. The difference is that instead of muscle breaking down and building up, the soul often feels like it is being torn asunder. In some ways it is, because its worst elements are being ripped off and replaced with that which is good and pure.

If you’re wondering why sin does not produce similar experiences, it is because that behavior produces a kind of spiritual atrophy. Just as a man often does not feel the pain of a slothful lifestyle until diseases like diabetes set in, the soul can shrivel in slow and steady increments.

We are living in a very unique time in history. Every year it seems as though technology improves by leaps and bounds. Each new milestone brings with it enormous potential for spiritual growth or decay. It is my hope that you realize that aiming to be “a good person” is like shooting for the the outer ring of the bullseye in a game of darts — only life is not a game and the consequences of your actions here and now have eternal consequences.

If you push yourself each day to live as a saint, then I have no doubt in my mind that upon your death you will be welcomed home by the one true God who loved you in eternity well before you were cradled, in time and space, in your mother’s arms.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

9 comments

  1. Amen. I too have yelled at God a few times. He has been merciful and kind anyway. I call it collapsing in hysterics at the foot of King. Life will do that too you.

    The internet is a bit like a peek into the human psyche and once seen it can never be unseen. When confronted with something like the total depravity of mankind, it can help us to understand why we need a Savior so badly, and also why we are told where to place our eyes, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

    Too much darkness will actually begin to rot your soul.

    1. “Amen. I too have yelled at God a few times. He has been merciful and kind anyway. I call it collapsing in hysterics at the foot of King. Life will do that too you.”

      Haha. That’s a good way to put it! 🙂 Yeah, not my proudest moment. But, like I said, I learned a lot because of the experience.

      “Too much darkness will actually begin to rot your soul.”

      Agreed. It’s also like the “death by 10,000 paper cuts” kind of thing.

  2. I think a lot of people are overly obsessed with making everyone else think they are saints…When, on a personal level, they are not.

    And being around people like that, when I was hungry for spiritual exercise ate away at my soul when I needed sustenance. Fine…I found sustenance.

    Taking my wife through CCD was such an uplifting experience. Shared love and community, service…those things helped me bring happiness to others. I was well versed in Catholicism anyway, and I found open ears and hearts to all my thoughts and feelings. But these were the new converts. Going to Mass was weary. These people didn’t want to know us, they didn’t want to hear from us, and we didn’t belong with them. When I snapped and left…I’m sorry, I may have, in my mind, done the wrong thing…but I have never ‘felt’ it was the wrong thing…in fact, I felt like I had lifted something terrible off my shoulders…the burden of having to prove to people who don’t care…that I’m a good person. I shared all this with you already. The people we went to CCD with? all left. Want to find rot…I think it was there.

    I was supposed to see Christ Jesus in others, to be Christ Jesus to others…for I was created in him to do good works, that God had prepared me to walk in. We were seen as flotsam…I can take that for myself, but I couldn’t stand watching my Wife and child go through it…from her evangelical upbringing of tight community and love…I converted her to this. A church of indifference.

    1. Chuck, even the saints were not “saints” on a personal level. Have you read Saint Augustine’s Confessions? Seriously. Read it if you have not.

      You have sounded off on your experience before, and I empathize with you, but at the same time it is obvious to me that you still still not forgiven the human — and thus fallible — individuals who apparently wronged you and your family. You harbor a lot of anger and resentment, and the same “indifference” you accuse the Church of having exists within you. And whether you can see it or not, I’m telling you from my experiences with you with on this blog that it is screaming “Here I am! I am Chuck’s Anger and Resentment and Indifference!” just like something out of Fight Club. And if you don’t get control of it and cast it out, it will continue to eat away at your soul.

      Instead of acknowledging that you are part of the Mystical Body of Christ — yes, the Church is that Body that your wife joined and that’s a good thing — and then working like a white blood cell within that body to heal it from the inside, you sit around and sulk and point fingers and whine about indifference. Let that sink in for awhile. Meditate on it, because there is a lesson to be learned.

      Christ forgave his own disciples — who denied Him at the moment of truth. Can you forgive some members of a local parish who failed to live up to your expectations? I hope so.

  3. There’s not a word you have written that I haven’t taken to heart. I appreciate your candor and willingness to be upfront with me. Perhaps I have made another good friend. I’m at work at cannot respond at length, but hopefully we can talk about this more later.

  4. We were created to be perfect, to do nothing but bring glory to God.

    What we strive for on earth is to bring that glory to God even in our fallen state. As Isaiah said, our strength and endurance are renewed by God, so when we fail or fall behind, Jesus is there to pick us up and put us back on the path, and His patience is infinite.

    I am doing a study in Philippians right now, and it is reminding me, that I can always find joy regardless of my circumstances as long as the gospel is preached. No matter my hardships, as Paul said in Romans, the glory brought to God is infinitely more important.

    1. “I am doing a study in Philippians right now, and it is reminding me, that I can always find joy regardless of my circumstances as long as the gospel is preached. No matter my hardships, as Paul said in Romans, the glory brought to God is infinitely more important.”

      Well said!

  5. Hey Doug! This is why I check out your blog even though I don’t read comics anymore. It’s so encouraging to me to see you, my brother, struggling to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. I too am struggling. Our call is very high. We are to be sons of God and brothers and friends of Christ. And you are right about the strangeness of the times we live in and the power that technology gives us to be saints or sinners. Thanks for the encouragement and God bless you.

    1. “Hey Doug! This is why I check out your blog even though I don’t read comics anymore. It’s so encouraging to me to see you, my brother, struggling to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. I too am struggling. Our call is very high. We are to be sons of God and brothers and friends of Christ. And you are right about the strangeness of the times we live in and the power that technology gives us to be saints or sinners. Thanks for the encouragement and God bless you.”

      Thanks for continuing to stop by, Edwardo! Did you see my review of Thomas Merton’s “The Seven Storey Mountain“? If not, then you may want to check it out.

      Also, I may be reviewing Bishop Robert Barron’s “Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of Faith,” along with Cardinal Fulton J. Sheen’s “Your Life is Worth Living.” A third book I may review in the near future will be Merton’s “No Man is an Island.” I’m just trying to juggle a lot of things in terms of work, personal life, the blog, and YouTube videos … but faith-based blog posts are definitely going to continue.

      Again, thanks for reading!

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