On Solid Rock
A close friend recommended to me an article (which he did not know I already read) he thought would be of interest to me. I reread my own copy of it in the hopes of getting something new as is always the case when you read again an article. My eyes fell upon this quotation from a study by Weiser:
“… clergy are the most often unaware that they are at risk. Their own perceptual distortions lead them to believe that they are functioning adequately; and yet manifestations of anger and hostility, the alienation of counselees or congregational members, and the regular assigning of blame to others indicate that something is wrong. But often the religious professional will deny the presence of symptomatic behaviors, even when confronted directly.”
Only one phrase rang a bell: perceptual distortions. It is the quiet filter in our vision of the self that colors how we think we really are. I could be wearing one for all I know. I believe it is a silent cruel evil because it distorts the truth because of self-made assurances. It struck me because I know of people who think they are good but in the measure of real goodness, they flunk.
It made me question, how can we be ever sure that we are in the right path or that we are acting rightly, truly, and sincerely? Or are we all victims to our own subjective conditions: how we were brought up, how we view the world, how we have come to know ourselves, or how the faith has been passed on to us? How can we be ever sure that we are doing God’s will?
It is important for me because I am a religious who will witness to the Truth. If I am not in the Truth, then I am no witness. If I color the Truth, then it is no longer the Truth but a lie. Without my wanting it, my actions will always be observed, judged, and taken notice of by the people around me simply because I am a religious. Such a high expectation from our culture demands from me strictest possible discipline that I can place on me.
DETECT AND TEST
There is the danger for the religious to spiritualize everything, that something black become gray. We might not know it but we are already wolves in sheep’s clothing. So the call to purify intentions remains valid. As I thought over this, Jesus’ words came to me: You will know a tree by its fruit. The most crucial thing is to detect that something is wrong and you can detect the symptoms of deeper problems by the way a person acts: “… and yet manifestations of anger and hostility, the alienation of counselees or congregational members, and the regular assigning of blame to others indicate that something is wrong.” If you can’t reconcile a person’s words and his actions, there is something wrong in the middle.
We can always test ourselves and the fruit of our actions against what St. Paul expects of those who live in the Spirit. Are the fruits of the Spirit visible in us? Even more, here we underline the importance of examining our consciences at the end of the day in a two-fold question: what are the bad things we have done and the good we have failed to do?
Another big help that I know of is asking other people. If you have real close friends you can ask for feedback on how you can improve better your self. It is also important to listen to criticisms because each spite holds a grain of truth. Don Bosco has always encouraged approaching a spiritual director and confessor, angels who will guide you in your path.
One important question that I inherited from formation and I find useful as a religious asks me: How close am I to the person of Christ? Because I am a religious I have to emulate and personify Christ before people. But let me extend this question even to the lay and those who call themselves Christian. For by our name Christians, we implicitly announce that we follow Christ and we are willing to become like Christ.
The most difficult phase perhaps is accepting that there is something wrong in me. This is the part where many people refuse to move forward toward change. For once the self-image is challenged, the ego will attempt to close its eyes on the truth. The truth is not always enjoyable, most of the time it is painful. It is more painful when it involves peeling off the sugarcoating and revealing the truer image of who we are. This takes humility, and a lot of it. How many times have we known we were wrong but preferred to gloss over it thinking it doesn’t really matter?
Only when we are convinced of our imperfections can we strive to become more perfect. It takes time to correct a deeply-entrenched bad habit but little by little we can always undo such a habit. Scaling the heights of sanctity takes effort.
In my Philosophical studies, we deal with this on the question between Immanence and Transcendence. Is truth limited to the individual such that it is relative or is there something we can call Absolute Truth. My conscience tells me there is Absolute Truth.
Christ remains the true measure of Sanctity, the solid rock we can build our house on. We may possess our own perceptual distortions which will color our view of who we really are. Yet if we remember the brilliance of Christ’s light, we can always gauge ourselves to his Truth. The Season of Lent starts tomorrow, perhaps these three little steps will help us in our Spiritual Growth.