Henri Nouwen – Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that “sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).
The less aware we are of our shadow self, the more damage it will do. Church teachings on repentance, confession, and forgiveness make good sense. At some point we must say to at least one person: “My name is Joe, and I’m an alcoholic” (or a sex addict, or a workaholic, or an unloving man). Bring it out of darkness, and “everything that becomes visible is light” (Ephesians 5:14).
That’s what we mean by making friends with the shadow. The hero in the Holy Grail stories was advised not to kill the Dark Knight but to make friends with him. It took me years to comprehend this, but now I wonder if there is any other way to overcome evil except to make it work for you and get it on your side. That’s what Jesus did on the cross by making his own murder the salvation of the world. He didn’t destroy his killers, but forgave them because “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The shadow never knows what it is doing.
– Richard Rohr
It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you expect to be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?
Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.
Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.
You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.
Say Bismillah, In the name of God,
as a priest does when offering an animal.
Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.
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
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.
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!