Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Revealing Thoughts and Feelings

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.

Monday, March 26, 2018

On Falling and Getting Up

A monk was once asked what they did up there in the monastery all the time. He replied, "We fall and get up again, fall and get up again, fall and get up again. 

Falling and getting up - it's not an easy thing. The older I get the harder I seem to fall. Sometimes I fall many times in the same day and the more often it happens the more difficult getting up again seems to be.

I find myself wondering sometimes if maybe I can just learn the lesson already, take it to heart, then I might be able to avoid falling again. But somehow I think the "lesson" is a bit beside the point. It's not exactly like learning to ride a bike or play an instrument, where skill increases with practice and the playing or riding becomes easier and even more enjoyable as skill increases. Perhaps the point is more about learning to understand that I am not self-sufficient, able to conquer my passions alone. Perhaps the more I fall the more I will see how very much I need help. Perhaps every time I pick myself back up I have another opportunity to reorient myself toward the right telos, the right end. If I can keep refocusing on Christ, maybe in the end He will be all I can see. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Anyone wishing to love must be crucified

"God... took human nature and even the innocent passions, such as hunger, thirst, and even weariness, in order to draw near to us with great love, to refresh us and not to burn us. He came in such a manner as to become truly the remedy for us. He became not only the physician but also the medicine. By its very nature love is a cross. Anyone wishing to love must be crucified. Real love means putting individualism and selfishness to death. It could even be said that love means accepting this dying as life."