Interviews with Spiritual Heroes: New Monthly Series

“What makes a hero? Courage, strength, morality, withstanding adversity? Are these the traits that truly show and create a hero? Is the light truly the source of darkness or vice versa? Is the soul a source of hope or despair? Who are these so called heroes and where do they come from? Are their origins in obscurity or in plain sight?”

–Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

As I have traversed the dusty trail of life, I have stumbled greatly, and with far more frequency than I would care to admit.  Generally speaking, I have been a rather colossal idiot personally much of the time. When I am not doing well, I am moody, streaky, undisciplined, resentful, and prone to self-destruct.  On the other hand, when I am doing well, I am thoughtful, authentic, selfless, gratetful, remarkably hard-working, and transparent about my personal brokenness.

A better portion of what has gotten me through the back and forth is sheer grace, operational in a few ways: I have a relatively gifted intellect, I can be charming and gregarious, and I warm up very easily to people I admire. These three things have gracefully covered a multitude of sins.

Of the three, I honestly believe the last has been the most powerful.

Partially as a result of some rather large relational deficits I experienced early on, and otherwise being very in touch with the sense of brokenness I believe is germane to all humans, I have throughout life been very hungry for affection.  As a result, when I see someone I like, I have the capacity to latch on deeply. I learned to trust that if I am annoying those to whom I become attached, they will tell me (and often they have!).  I’m not talking about being needy, per se, though certainly there was a time when I always was – I’ve learned to temper some of that.

V0009376 Two outlines of faces expressing admiration (left) and astonI’m just talking about really, really, really allowing myself to think highly of certain individuals.  Not to the point that I ignore their faults and various and sundry misgivings, but that I contextualize them richly and fold them into the formation of their strengths.  I firmly believe that when we allow ourselves to really have that kind of admiration for someone, we naturally become disciples of that person.  This kind of posture contains within it the remarkable ability to transform us, and in particular, toward becoming very much like those whom we admire.

So, for every person I’ve admired, a piece of me is now very much like them. And most of the people I’ve selected have been every bit as remarkable as I experienced them being, so now, in many ways, pieces of me are remarkable. If that sounds conceited, I don’t mean it that way — quite the opposite, actually. It is only what I’ve learned from others.

The point is that I lose very little by really, really, really admiring people, by being willing to lose all of my cool points with them, to become obsessive fans of them. I don’t mean I show up at their house in the middle of the night wanting to have coffee, just that I crush on them, read what they write like my life depends on it, and hang on their words as if they hold the keys to the kingdom.

There is something remarkable about being willing to see the greatness of people, and to be enraptured by them. This has reaped enormous dividends for me.

In so doing, we may find that our brokenness is capable of being redeemed, as when the scriptures say that every valley shall be exalted, the hills made low, the crooked straight, the rough plain. It is precisely my largest relational wounds and resultant deficits, dysfunction even, that have lead me into God’s promises for my life.  In other words, where we are most broken is where we are most capable of being influenced by our heroes, and therefore where God is most likely to move in us.

That in mind, I’m very pleased to introduce a new monthly series entitled, Interviews with Spiritual Heroes, where I’ll be dialoguing with persons who’ve had a great influence on me, particularly spiritually.  The series is thus far to include the following names, and more will be added to this list as time goes on.  I hope you enjoy it!

Tentative Calendar of Posts:
Brother Alois of Taize



December 2014 — Brother Alois of Taizé Read the post here.





Fernando Ortega


January 2015 — Musical Artist, Fernando Ortega Read the post here.




Father Richard Rohr



February 2015 — Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation, author of numerous books, including Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. — Read the post here.


March 2015 — BREAK!!!!

Parker Palmer


April 2015 — Parker Palmer, founder of Senior Partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, speaker, activist, and world-renowned author of several books, including Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.  — Read the post here.




Shane Claiborne


May 2015 — Shane Claiborne, founder of The Simple Way, and author of numerous books, including, Jesus for President, Red Letter Revolution, and Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Interview not yet published.








Header image courtesy of Pixabay, used under creative commons license.

In-text image “Admiration,” Brother Alois image, Henri Nouwen image, Sue Mosteller image courtesy of Wikimedia, used under creative commons license.

Richard Rohr image copyright Center for Action and Contemplation, used with permission.

Fernando Ortega image copyright Hope Evangelical free image, used for non-commercial purposes without intent of copyright infringement.


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Author: Ryan Thomas Neace

Ryan Thomas Neace is a counselor, professor, husband, and daddy. Please contact him for counseling via skype or in-person at

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