Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Measuring Up

We spend a lot of time worrying about whether we measure up to someone else’s standard.  It starts as children, who are supposed to measure up to length/weight expectations when they’re born, and developmental progress as they grow.  Even after we achieve adulthood, even the status of our “adult-ness” gets measured by our parents, peers, and in our professional lives.

The reality is, that isn’t going to change.  But when we take our metaphoric measuring tapes into our spiritual lives, it starts getting both strange and destructive, I think.

In some traditions, there’s an expectation that someone needs to be a “proper person” prior to initiation, and in my case I have standards before even accepting someone as a student.  Frankly, it’s in the best interest of everyone involved to make sure it’s the “right fit” for us all.  But when the tape measure turns into a weapon, there’s a problem with someone’s ego getting in the way of their spirituality.

For example, my friend Betsy (not her real name) asked a local woman Sondra (not her real name) about the discrepancy in elemental associations for the athame and the wand between air and fire.  It’s not a bad question, because if you read enough books it’s clear that there’s a big difference of opinion on the matter.  Now, Sondra is not Betsy’s teacher.  Betsy is studying on her own, and Sondra is someone in an online discussion group who she respected enough to ask.  Sondra’s response was, in a word, horrible.  The gist of the response, with the expletives deleted, was “Why can’t you newbies learn to read and think for yourself instead of being so damned fluffy?”   Betsy was terribly upset and justifiably insulted.

So, Sondra immediately judged Betsy as not worthy of an answer, and by whatever internal standards she was using Betsy fell into the category of “fluffy”, and proceeded to verbally whip her with that metaphorical tape measure.  For folks who supposedly believe and practice “Harm none”, being abusive to another person is actively choosing to violate their own belief system.  And yes, I’m completely aware that I’m using my own measuring tape right now.

But we don’t just hurt each other with our measuring sticks, we hurt ourselves too.  We set these weird limits on ourselves such as:  “I’m too fat for that guy to be interested in me”, “I’m not smart enough for that job”, “I don’t know enough about magic to talk to other people about it”, “I can’t do love spells for myself”, “I can’t do a prosperity spell for myself to get that job”, etc.  We do these things to ourselves with our negative self-talk and sabotage every aspect of our own lives. 

As magical practitioners, we can’t work magic to effect change without remembering that it’s thought that drives it, and we MUST remember that if our thoughts can change reality then we must be more responsible for the changes we make in our own lives through self-talk.  Being kind to ourselves AND others means we all need to focus on our standards, our own limits, and respect our wants/needs without beating ourselves up and without beating other people over the head with them.

So here’s my final point… make sure the standards you expect yourself and others to live up to aren’t unreasonable.  Don’t demand that others live up to a standard you don’t.  Don’t be a jerk, it’s really not that hard to be nice.  If you’re so frustrated that you’re likely to blow up, then you need to work on your own personal stress management.  Go meditate or something.


  1. Heya, Alan! I have that same complaint about the elemental correspondences for the athame and the wand. In the Tarot, the Wand is Fire and the Swords are Air. Sounds good, except that many authors reference them in the reverse, and I can see why: when I use the athame to cast the circle, I channel energy through it by visualizing light (which is Fire); when I use the wand to focus a verbalized intention, then I am using the power of Air. Or is it Fire when my will is added to the intent? Right. I totally get the confusion.

    Years ago, I would have been totally rigid about needing it to be one way or the other and would have felt threatened by anyone having a different opinion. Now, I just tap into my intuitive side and ask the tool itself where it wants to be placed -- usually it all works out. :-)

  2. Dang Alan, you phabulous philosopher! What a great post! The “Harm none” and “be kind to others” points are so well made and need repeating periodically, unfortunately. The parting shot was excellent: “Go meditate or something”; so much better than “go jump in the lake”.

    And thank you for this thought: “we MUST remember that if our thoughts can change reality then we must be more responsible for the changes we make in our own lives through self-talk”. I think it’s imperative to realize that there are reactions – psychologic AND energetic – to all our actions, great and small, and to try to tip the balance of our actions toward healing/growth/clarity and away from damage/turmoil/apathy. Thanks for the reminder. I think I’ll go meditate or something. :-D