Addiction happens when we no longer want to feel our feelings. Addiction happens when we don’t want to know our own thoughts or feel our own pain. But you know what? Addiction doesn’t work. in the long run addiction brings ten times more pain than you would experience by accepting the legitimate pain of being a human being. Religion needs to be teaching this upfront and without apology. – Richard Rohr
The language of descent is either learned by mid-life (normally through suffering and the experience of powerlessness), or we inevitably move into a long day’s journey of accusing, resentment and negativity, circling our wagons as the hurts and disappointments of life gather round us: “I am right and others are wrong. I have a right to my judgments and I will continue to use valuable energy to justify them.” I have visited too many old men and retired priests in nursing homes to doubt this common pattern. When mid-life no longer allowed them to ascend or to deny their dark side, far too many men shut down or kept running. The price is a world of men who do not age well, who are emotionally, spiritually, intellectually unavailable – or just eccentric. These are the dads, priests and leaders we all laugh about but seldom take seriously.
– Richard Rohr, from The Wild Man’s Journey
Our suffering today is psychological, relational, and addictive; it is the suffering of people who are comfortable on the outside but oppressed and empty within. This is a crisis of meaninglessness, which leads us to seek meaning in possessions, perks, prestige, and power-all things that lie outside the self. When these things fail to give us meaning, we turn to ingesting food, drink, or drugs, or we become mass consumers to fill the emptiness within. Bill Wilson and his Alcoholics Anonymous movement have shown us that the only way to stop seeking, needing, or abusing outer power is to find the real power within. The movement’s twelve-step program walks us back out of our addictive society. Like all steps toward truth and Spirit, the twelve steps lead us downward, to the power within, which the program rightly refers to as our Higher Power. – Richard Rohr
People who are oppressed or poor know every day that the current system is not just. They have little to lose and everything to gain by seeking justice. People on the top invariably support the status quo. Why wouldn’t they? It’s working for them. You will always want to “conserve” the system that has got you where you are. Without empathy for those Jesus called “the least of the brothers and sisters,” our politics on left or right will reflect self-interest and show little concern for the actual common good. Starting with the Exodus, and Yahweh’s identification with the enslaved Israelites, the Scriptures consistently show a rather clear bias toward the bottom of society as the necessary starting point. Any other starting point has far too much to protect and cannot hear or speak what is necessary for the common good. – Richard Rohr
…it will always lead to actions of mercy; when actions of mercy are attempted at any depth, they will always drive you to prayer. – Richard Rohr
Forgiveness has the power to lead you to your True Self in God. Because the hurts of life are so great, you cannot let go of the pain on your own. At that point, you need to draw from a Larger Source. What you are doing with forgiveness is changing your egoic investment in your own painful story—which too often has become your ticket to sympathy and sometimes your very identity. Forgiveness is one of the most radically free things a human being can do. When you forgive, you have to let go of your own feelings, your own ego, your own offended identity, and find your identity at a completely different level—the divine level. I even wonder if it is possible to know God at all—outside of the mystery of forgiveness (Luke 1:77).
Richard Rohr +Adapted from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (Recording).
Fear is an addiction for a lot of people. They don’t know how to motivate themselves without being afraid of something. They don’t know how not to worry. When you’re living an inauthentic life, you’re going to worry because your subconscious, your spirit, knows your life has no truth. That is why we are creating so many fearful people.
The more illusory stuff we have to protect, the more fearful we will be. There’s almost a correlation between fears that people have and the false lives they live. Beneath all the layers of behavior, it is fear that brings more people into counseling than any other emotion. The counselor’s role is to help people identify what is behind their fear. Real lives start then. – Richard Rohr
I posted the above on Facebook a number of years ago. I knew the truth of this then – that it described my inner life, my false self – but was unable to admit to myself that fear and shame were mixed in with my other addictions – and pride, misguided pride, kept me from admitting it to myself, to another human being, or to God.
As Rumi wrote:
Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave
give the opening we most want
photo: Grindstone, ME – September 2019
When world religions become mature, we will have a new history, no longer based on competition, rivalry, cultures or warfare, but on people who are actually transformed. These people will change the world, as Mary did, almost precisely because they know it is not they who are doing the changing. They will know they do not need to change other people, just themselves, God takes it from there.
– Richard Rohr
(photo: Fiesole, Italy – July 2002)
Another of Jesus’ nonnegotiables is the work of justice and generosity toward the poor and the outsider. That’s quite clear, quite absolute—page after page of the Gospels. Yet Christian history, even at the highest levels of church, has thought nothing of amassing fortunes and living grandly (while others starved), and rather totally identifying with power, war, and money (they tend to go together).
At this point in history, when most people can read Jesus’ (and the Bible’s) clear and consistent bias toward the poor, the foreigner, and the marginalized, it can only be ignored with a culpable blindness and ignorance. Most Christians have indeed been “cafeteria Christians” when it comes to this. Usually they will markedly emphasize something else (often a sexual issue) to divert attention from what Jesus did not divert attention from. As Jesus himself put it, “you strain out gnats and you swallow camels!” (Matthew 23:24). The issues never change in any age, as long as the same old ego is in charge.
– Richard Rohr, ofm
(photo: Portland, ME – February 2019)