Awhile back I posted a list of 55 Precepts for Christian Living by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I have seen the list circulated quite a bit since then and I recently came across the suggestion of journaling through each item on the list. I thought that was a wonderful suggestion and, as I considered doing it, I decided that I'd like to share some of my thoughts here.
Precept number 14:
Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly.
This maxim has been a difficult one for me to come to terms with. I find that I live very much in my head, and my thoughts are a sanctuary in many ways from the whirlwind of input in which I find myself each day. For me the idea of revealing all my thoughts, even to a trusted person, is very scary. I doubt I'm the only one who feels this way. Which of us has not had thoughts that would cause him or her to burn with shame if anyone else found out about them? Which of us has not had thoughts that would be hurtful to others, or that would cause strife and conflict if they were brought to light?
And yet... the more I contemplate this suggestion, the more I realize that perhaps Fr. Tom is onto something.
I am not my thoughts.
My thoughts may be a part of me, but they do not make up my whole person.
I have the freedom to choose which thoughts and feelings I will dwell on and which thoughts and feelings I will dismiss.
It's easy to think that because I have this freedom that I can just learn to be discerning by myself. Why should I bring anyone else into it? That just leaves me open and vulnerable doesn't it?
But do I really know myself well enough to evaluate my thoughts and feelings properly? Real, deep self-knowledge is harder to come by than it might seem.
There are some thoughts and feelings which, when grasped and clung to, lead down paths that are dark and twisted. These kinds of thoughts make it difficult to stay on the narrow way. There are other thoughts and feelings that can be cultivated and nourished in such a way as to shine light on the path and make it easier to walk.
Perhaps an objective perspective from someone who is not my self is important after all.
I'll be the first to admit that I have not lived by this maxim. It's scary to open one's thoughts and feelings to another person, even if it is a person one trusts. The fear of shame is real and powerful.
I find myself wondering if this is something that I can work towards, little by little, revealing myself up as I am able, keeping in my sight the end goal of humble openness.
I don't know if I will ever reach this goal, but I am beginning to see the value of its pursuit; sometimes the very journey itself is where much of the value lies in the end.