Spirituality

The challenge

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.

This is one of the statements that I most associate with Richard Rohr; and it is one that he must have said dozens of times. And so it also appears in Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, where he adds:

If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter. Indeed, there are bitter people everywhere, inside and outside of the church. As they go through life, the hurts, disappointments, betrayals, abandonments, the burden of their own sinfulness and brokenness all pile up, and they do not know where to put it.

If there isn’t some way to find some deeper meaning to our suffering, to find that God is somehow in it, and can even use it for good, we will normally close up and close down. The natural movement of the ego is to protect itself so as not to be hurt again.

Biblical revelation is about transforming history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing the pain onto the next generation. … Exporting our unresolved hurt is almost the underlying story line of human history, so you see why people still need healthy spirituality and healthy religion.

I think Rohr is right. How we deal with our hurts, disappointments, betrayals etc. makes all the difference, not only in how we experience and treat others, but also in how we experience life itself. Bitterness, cynicism and distrust are so dangerous because they are so destructive. They can seriously hurt and even destroy others, but that’s not all: in the end, they can destroy us, too.

The challenge, then, is not to close down but to accept and integrate our hurts, disappointments and betrayals, which of course hurt the more the less expected they are. The challenge is to transform our pain and not transmit it, to let ourselves be hurt without hitting back. A true challenge indeed, but the realisation that this is the only healthy way forward is perhaps the first step. Compassion for those who hurt us and a commitment to non-violence in all walks of life make all the difference, for ourselves in the first place but also, in the long run, for those we encounter.

Spirituality

The freedom not to know

As a footnote on my previous post, I should say that Kennedy’s statement appeals to me because it connects with the Christian apophatic tradition, which is precisely a tradition of not knowing. Richard Rohr (in Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality) defines this as ‘the very concept of faith, the freedom not to know’, and notes that

it is amazing how religion has turned this biblical idea of faith around to mean its exact opposite: into a tradition of certain knowing, presumed predictability and complete assurance about whom God likes and whom God does not like.

Biblical Studies · Spirituality

Every chance he gets

Luke’s Gospel is … the most forgiving of all four Gospels. Every chance he gets, Luke has Jesus forgiving people, right up to the thief on the cross and the prayer for his persecutors. … Mercy and inclusivity – Jesus’ ministry to outcasts, to gentiles, to the poor – are emphasized a great deal in Luke. … Luke’s sacred text is also called the gospel of women. Far more than any other evangelist, Luke brings women into Jesus’ life and shows Jesus’ unique way of relating to women. He wants to make Jesus available to the forgotten and diminished, and women usually were.

And sadly still all too often are.

The quote is from Richard Rohr’s ‘Daily Meditations’.

Spirituality

Hope is a participation in the very life of God

Hope is not logical, but a ‘participation in the very life of God’ (just like faith and love, which were called ‘theological virtues’ as opposed to virtues acquired by practice, temperament, or willpower). That doesn’t mean we should not practice being hopeful, but it is still not a matter of pure willpower. Faith, hope, and love are always somehow a gift – a cooperation with Someone Else, a participation in Something Larger than me.

Richard Rohr, ‘Some Effects of Mystical (“Experiential”) Encounter’ (Richard’s Daily Meditations, 9th March 2013)