Not Aspergers, Just A Sinner

Not Aspergers, Just A Sinner

Sunday night, as I drove to CVS to buy another Pillow Pet for MaryOur fiery 21 month old, I drove a little slower to catch a story on This American Life with Ira Glass.  Act Two: Wife Lessons, told a story about a wife (and special-ed teacher) who after many years began to notice that her husband exhibited many of the same behaviors which many of her students with Asperger’s exhibited.  She sat down with him and read a series of questions from an “Aspie-Quiz“, and the two discovered (with confirmation from their doctor) that the husband suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.

After sitting several minutes in the driveway listening to the conclusion, I decided to take the quiz for myself.  A few examples of the questions asked included “Do you get easily frustrated?”, “Do you enjoy gossip?” “Do you become frustrated if an activity that is important to you gets interrupted?” ”Are you gracious about criticism, correction and direction?”  Do you tend to say things that are considered socially inappropriate when you are tired, frustrated or when you act naturally?” “Do you get frustrated if you can’t sit on your favorite seat?” “Have you have had long-lasting urges to take revenge?”

The test includes 150 questions, and as a whole, seems to cover a wide spectrum of thoughts, feelings, and impulses commonly suffered by those with Asperger’s.  The test is a “yes/no/maybe” format.  I scored very low, which means that I am “neurotypical” and many of my answers were not a matter of psyche, but of sinfulness.  I do not seek to downplay the role of Asperger’s in the lives of many, but would rather like to point out that some of the questions asked in the quiz may also relate to one’s spiritual life, almost as a sort of examination of conscience.

Do I get frustrated when people interrupt my time or projects?  Yes.  Why?  As C. S. Lewis illustrated in The Screwtape Letters,

 ”"…My time is my own”. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to

Photo by Vanessa (EY)

make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.” Ch. XXI

 

Similarly the question, ”Are you gracious about criticism, correction and direction?”, could be succinctly rephrased for the Christian with the words, “Do you lack humility?”  ”Have you have had long-lasting urges to take revenge?” can translate into, “Do you know how to forgive as Jesus commanded70 x 7, baby! (Matthew 18:22)?”

The point of this exercise for me changed from one of curiosity to one of introspection, realizing that many of the questions in the quiz also pertain to one’s spiritual life.  I certainly plan to take the quiz again, with a focus on reading the questions through a spiritual lens.  What pieces of your spiritual life should you improve?  What areas of vice should you replace with virtue?  I highly encourage you to start Lent off right and take some time to investigate those parts of your life of which you may have before been unaware.

2 Comments

  1. I have friends with Aspergers and, although I don’t have it, I score fairly high on the spectrum. I agree with you that many of the criteria could refer to sinful tendencies, but I also think we have to keep in mind that our psychological make-up can be a cross with its own temptations. A person with Aspergers has to work hard to fight the temptation to close himself in. A person with ADHD has to work hard to fight the temptation to give up easily. On the other hand, I have often wondered if these conditions that have been diagnosed as disorders by psychologists are simply the disorders inherent in each temperament. Perhaps a person with ADHD doesn’t just have ADHD; perhaps he is a strong sanguine who needs to learn the upside of his temperament, as well as the downside.

  2. National Catholic Register published a post this morning by Matthew Archbold titled, “Boys Ain’t Defective Girls”, which addresses the very thing you describe.