Being forgiven is only the beginning . . .

Starets Silouan

Starets Silouan

THE first year after I had received the Holy Spirit I thought to myself: The Lord has forgiven me my sins: grace is witness thereof. What more do I need? But that is not the way to think. Though our sins be forgiven we must remember them and grieve for them all our lives, so as to preserve a contrite heart. I did not do this and ceased to be contrite, and suffered greatly from evil spirits. And I was perplexed at what was happening to me, and said: My soul knows the Lord and His love. How is it that evil thoughts come to me? But the Lord had pity on me, and taught me the way to humble myself: Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not. Thus is the enemy vanquished; but when my mind emerges from the fire the suggestions of passion gather strength again.  ~ Starets Silouan



Badri Bajaj


Neerja Pande

“Mindful people … can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down (emotionally),” they write. “Pausing and observing the mind may (help us) resist getting drawn into wallowing in a setback.”  ~  Badri Bajaj & Neerja Pande

I am one of those who hears Bajaj and Pande voicing important psychosocial aspects of the Jesus prayer. In my eyes, their points are not complete, nonetheless, their words express essential aspects of what the hesychastic traditions teach us. Their words voice part of what we are to express to those around us. Our forgiving, weeping and in our prays bearing up under the load of everyones need of joy in Christ is, in part, expressed by those researchers words.

Put another way, mindfulness “weakens the chain of associations that keep people obsessing about” their problems or failures, which increases the likelihood they will try again.  ~  Tom Jacobs

Tom Jacobs

Tom Jacobs

Dredging up my own mistakes

How often have you glanced at your watch, wondering when the person across the table will finally draw things to a close? We have all known people who tell you about every great thing they’ve done. We’ve, also, gone through mopping up behind them. It would have been better if they’d been weeping into their beer. Neither of these bode well with any of us. Nonetheless, I’m going to shut the door on braggarts and keep a mop in hand even as I wring it in front you.
Times like this are too much like my hours with some clients. Most of those people didn’t drench the couch with excessive tears.

IMG_0026Yet, a few gave me reason to keep an umbrella stashed behind my chair. It was people, excessively, bemoaning their faults or how the mistakes of others had hurt them. Consistent, in such conversations, was an unwillingness to bring this sorrow to resolution.

I am uncertain whether many of them treasured their self-pity. Their, session after session, laying before me the same personal flaws, made me confident that more often than not those feelings were closer to an addiction than anything else.

It isn’t just the good things we come to crave. We each have assortments of negative feelings and thoughts crawling out from under the rocks, through closed doors and creeping out of the refrigerator. You, like me, unconsciously expect a broad assortment of feelings and some of those are geared to bother us. Whatever your assortment of negative feelings are, those uncomfortably, come home to roost.

Your expectations are not necessarily conscious either. Like me, when I was dealing with a secretary over scheduling a yearly appointment and irritation, common to all of us, came racing in at the green light I gave it. secretary-answering-phone1The secretary on the other end of my cellphone’s wi-fi didn’t invite that feeling, I did. Likewise, when I feel down, despairing, angry or any other assortment of negative feelings I have learned to cautiously make those part of my prayer life by thanking God. My thankfulness is oddly seated in assuming there’s a good chance my negative feelings toward God and my life might not be about something real in my life. Those feelings, often enough, are a response to things my mind and body are accustomed to. If that proves to be the case then my task is to unlearn my attaching truth to a phantasm.

Reframing humility

cs-lewisC.S. Lewis: “Humility”  ~  “Humility is not thinking more of yourself or less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Earlier, I found this C. S. Lewis quote posted on Dover Beach which then set off more of my playing hide and seek with forgiveness.  At least in my mind, humility is seated deeply in being able to do more than offer forgiveness.

As Lewis put it toward humility, forgiving doesn’t require our forgetting that minor toward major wound. It is a shifting away from speaking the words, “I forgive you,” on over toward living out how forgiving changes my life both toward myself and the other(s) who hurt you or me.


Dispassion is not the lack of feelings but the rebuilding of those through relationships. As St. Evagrios the Solitary said, “Do not say that a dispassionate man cannot suffer affliction; for even if he does not suffer on his own account, he is under a liability to do so for his neighbor.

St. Evagrios the Solitary

St. Evagrios the Solitary

Our feelings can never cease since those are part of us. Those are shaped by our genetics, family histories and our share of real world events. Any person, who’d been sexually abused, in any fashion and regardless of their sex, from early childhood on will feel differently to common sexual innuendos. Young men spotting a girl dressed just right for them, or with that special color or length of hair or simple physical shape will set off a boy who’d been repeatedly abused by his dad or even mom in fashions and directions drastically different than those young men who’d known nothing akin to such. Girls who’d been worked for sex by a grandparent, uncle, dad, aunt or mom, likewise respond to their sexual feelings differently than those girls with no such things under their skirts.

My words are extreme and dramatically uncomfortable, I know. Too many of the people I’ve dealt with, in years past, had gone through years like those in the last paragraph. I’ve dealt with other dramatically perverse reshaped lives. Across those years, I’ve also come to think like mindedly of the rest of us. Extreme perversities are not required to unknowingly be dramatically off the mark.

I had a supervisor, years ago, who chewed me out for hospitalizing one of the system’s clients’. The guy had only wanted a day or two of specialized attention and I had cost the city and county a significant chuck of change. Her attempt at intimidating me was to stop me from every making that mistake again failed in my eyes. We had agreed, since the man had given me no valid reason for a short and costly stay in a locked psychiatric unit, but he had played the wild card.

Around 1 in the morning I had sent that chronic paranoid schizophrenic to the psychiatric unit, against my certainty there was no valid reason. Looking at this probably uncomfortable to most readers. If the man’s suffering from that disorder then perhaps he needed treatment, most readers will be saying. I knew though that he’d been seen by his psychiatrist the week before and the day before had been to his therapist’s office and consistently attended various fashions of groups across the past weeks. Before raising a typical caution about humans making rather sudden changes, realize that this man had a long history of repeatedly doing the same thing.

All we’d seen across years past was his chronically getting himself admitted for 24 or fewer hours and then wanting to leave. No changes in medication were attempted because of his refusals. I could have, also, gotten him in to see his counselor the next morning and his groups psychiatrist in a couple of days. That wasn’t what he wanted.

After determining that sure as the world, if I left his apartment taking the police, fire department and ambulance with me, we’d be back in an hour or two needing to ship him to the ER needing to flush his guts or deal with superficial cuts to his arms. Realize, reader, that things like this are a consistent problem. Our mental health systems are part of that problem and so we all have to bear up under it.

Back on the psychiatrist I was answering to. She brought up our potentially having to spend time in court over this, which was close to never happening. Her contention about being held responsible and punished was only meant to make me bow to her. Being, likewise, licensed made her dragoon maneuver unless in my eyes. Confronting her with the fact that any judge would look at my licensure and being the only one who signed the man into the hospital meant I’d be canned and not her. The subject got dropped.

Across my years since that rather common fiasco, I’ve come to take another perspective on things. Yes, she was attempting to dominate and just make me stop spending money and I agreed then just like now. I also know, I was right about just keeping us from having to make another run. My failure across all was the pride I took in being able to successfully stand up to an MD.

Out of my plethora of spiritual issues I’m also fight a stout headwind of pride.

Teach me, Lord, to live out my hope of not being Your’s and Yours not being mine.

It is isn't it!

Accepting the idea that what I’m hoping for may not be on the mark is an essential feature of walking in faith. Being willing to let go of how I had fashioned my hopes gives God the option of retraining me to focus my desires closer to the mark.

Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila

Robby Parker the father of Emilie, a victim in the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, offered up condolences all of those suffering like him. His including those whose son had committed the murders is profound. Most of us in the offing of a child would have nothing to do, even with the parents and family of the one killing our children. Robby wonderfully expressed what Teresa of Avila said simply.

“May it please the Beloved that we never fail to love each other, because if we do we are lost.”  ~ Teresa of Avila

Let all of us remember Adam Lanza’s family. I prayer that each of us, in time, come to the point of remembering Adam, as well.