the larger self & forgiveness

Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to one who first delivered it. Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We reimagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we reimagine the past in the light of our new identity, we allow ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft.

– David Whyte

Get behind me…

When you read the lives of the saints, especially in some older books, you can get the impression that they lived in a different world. Many of them describe physical encounters with Satan within which they would, literally, get beaten up by him. Satan, it seemed, was forever lurking under a bed, in a basement, in a stairwell, or in some dark corner, just waiting to pounce on them and beat them up. They had to be careful not to venture naively into dark places; though, conversely, there were times when they readied themselves and went deliberately, to the desert, to openly do battle with him.

And, in that fight, they had a great weapon, simple one-line mantras: “Get behind me, Satan!” “Satan, leave this room!” “Satan, leave me alone!” That brought guaranteed results. He left them in peace for a while, though they emerged somewhat scraped and bruised from the encounter.

Such language sounds pretty esoteric and even superstitious to us. Not many of us have ever had Satan pop up from under our beds or from some dark place and begin to beat us up. Or have we?

Who or what is Satan? Believers today are split as to whether or not they believe that Satan is an actual person or simply a symbol for a venomous power that can overwhelm you, strip you of moral strength, and leave you precisely with the feeling of having been beaten up. Either way, whether we believe that Satan is an actual person or simply a symbol for malevolence, temptation, and lack of moral strength, the encounters that the saints describe happen to us too in our rational, agnostic lives just as surely as they happened to pious believers in former times.

Satan, scripture tells us, is the prince of jealousy, bitterness, paranoia, obsession, and lies. Few things in life torment us and beat us up as badly as these. They lurk in every dark corner, come out from under our beds at night, generally threaten us, darken our days, dampen our joys, and make us anxious as to what might lie around the corner. We just word things differently.

We speak of being “obsessed”, while the saints speak of being “possessed”. It’s just a difference of words.

Satan, however we choose to conceive of that power, is harassing us all the time and we, like the saints of old, need to learn the mantra: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Where are we harassed and beaten up by Satan? Here are some, everyday, examples:

Every time our minds and hearts begin bitterly replaying, like cassette tapes, old conversations, old wounds, old rejections, and old injustices, so that everything inside of us wants to scream: “This isn’t fair!” “How dare he say that!” “How can she do that, after all I did for her!” “I hate those people!” “Why do I always get cheated?”, we are being tormented by Satan and need to say: “Get behind me, Satan!” There will be no joy, goodness, or moral strength in our lives until those obsessions leave us alone.

Every time we feel a deep emptiness inside and our world feels flat and empty of meaning because we are obsessed with someone or something we can’t have, we need to pray: “Get behind me, Satan!” Heartaches, especially over frustrated love, might well speak of romance, but they also bespeak satan in that they drain the joy out of life and deaden all of our manageable loves. Satan doesn’t come at us like a demon with a pitchfork, standing before fire and smoke, he torments us in a frustrated, pathologically-restless, romantic fantasy that has us in near-suicidal depression and comes upon us in dark stairwells, at parties, and right within our own beds.

Every time we feel pangs of jealousy (not necessarily overtly directed against someone else’s good fortune) but in the disappointment that we feel because our bodies, marriages, careers, and even our morals haven’t turned out as perfectly as we’d have liked, whenever we find it hard to be grateful for our own lives, we are being beaten up by Satan and need to say: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Indeed, any time we have trouble falling asleep at night because some memory, some disappointment, some lost love, some wrong-turn taken, or some obsession won’t let go and give us enough calm to sleep, Satan is harassing us, right in own beds, and we need, like the saints of old, to say: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Satan is alive and well, still tormenting us in our beds, in basement rooms, in dark stairwells, and in broad daylight as we travel to work. We call his presence: obsessions, heartaches, restlessness, jealousy, emptiness, fear, paranoia, old hurts, insomnia, chaos, and other names. Like the saints of old, we need at times when we feel strong enough to wrestle with him openly in the desert, but we need too, whenever our fears and obsessions begin to beat us up, to say the ancient prayer: “Get behind me, Satan!

– Ronald Rolheiser

never loved, never suffered

People who have never loved or never suffered will normally try to control everything with an either-or attitude or all-or-nothing thinking. This closed system is all they are prepared for. The mentality that divides the world into “deserving and undeserving” has not yet experienced the absolute gratuity of grace or the undeserved character of mercy. This lack of in-depth God-experience leaves all of us judgmental, demanding, unforgiving, and weak in empathy and sympathy. Such people will remain inside the prison of “meritocracy,” where all has to be deserved. They are still counting when in reality God and grace exist outside of all accounting. Remember, however, to be patient with such people, even if you are the target of their judgment, because on some level, that is how they treat themselves as well.

– Richard Rohr

evening

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Evening – Chama River
Love means to learn to look at yourself The way one looks at distant things
– Czelslaw Milosz

Pulling back the blankets tonight
I found a small cricket
quiet and shy
hiding under my pillow.

Oh, I know better.
Like me, though, it seemed alone
and in need of a companion
to get through the dark alive.

So, I’ll awaken before dawn
and give thanks if we’re still here
like the moths that flew to the light just now
when I opened the door to check for rain.

The night holds no terror for me resting under God’s wings – antiphon from Compline (night prayer)

I posted the following on Facebook four years ago today. I don’t know why. Did I know in my gut that I was so near the end of my rope and that I would hit rock bottom – hard – some five months later? 


Richard Rohr ~
When we come to the end of our rope and hit rock bottom, we are not dashed but fall into God’s hands. It is here at our lowest that we discover our true source of power, the indwelling Holy Spirit. Many years ago, during a hermitage in Arizona, I had a particularly strong sense of the Holy Spirit, the One who is fully available to all of us “if we but knew the gift of God” (John 4:10). I slowly composed this prayer–imagining many names and movements of the Spirit–to awaken and strengthen this Presence within you. Recite it whenever you are losing faith in God or in yourself.

Pure Gift of God

monochrome photo of dark hallway

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Indwelling Presence
Promise of the Father
Life of Jesus
Pledge and Guarantee
Defense Attorney
Inner Anointing
Homing Device
Stable Witness
Peacemaker
Always Already Awareness
Compassionate Observer
God Compass
Inner Breath
Mutual Yearning
Hidden Love of God
Implanted Hope
Seething Desire
Fire of Life and Love
Truth Speaker
Flowing Stream
Wind of Change
Descending Dove
Cloud of Unknowing
Uncreated Grace
Filled Emptiness
Deepest Level of Our Longing
Sacred Wounding
Holy Healing
Will of God
Great Compassion
Inherent Victory

You who pray in us, through us, with us, for us, and in spite of us.
Amen, Alleluia!

Many will Come – Rachel Srubas

Today, may I walk in right paths, in God’s light. May peace prosper the steps of my family and friends, in city streets and buildings, and among all nations.
Today, may people stream from east and west to converge in God’s neighborhood. May nations labor to dismantle barricades. May our city be a just, peaceable center, united and vibrant. May my friends and relations strive for the good of each other, and may I remember I am neither higher nor lower than a servant.
Today, may east and west meet in my right and left hands, complementing, comprehending one another.
In my body, may north and south correspond, lifting my mind above worry, grounding my feet on the earth.
Today may I know what I am: created, not self-made, instructed to walk and work in God’s ways.
May I hammer old knives into new spoons, old enmities into love.
May I respect the least functional part of myself as surely as Jesus cherishes a paralytic slave and saves him with a word.
May the shriveled and disused part of my heart be bathed in God’s mercy today, that I might see sunlight for what it is: the gaze that beholds and heals us all.
In a banquet hall spacious enough for a whole world of nations, may I rest among neighbors and strangers, friends and relations.
May we feast among prophets on food grown in plowed mountain soil, reaped with weapons repurposed as tools.

silhouette of person walking on brown field

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