It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves.
~~~ Thomas Merton
Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?
Perhaps the most difficult challenge we have in life is to see ourselves clearly and honestly. Jesus the Messiah took up this issue in his much quoted and much ignored Sermon on the Mount, and mystic monk, Thomas Merton, brings it a little closer to home. It is easy for us to dismiss the idea that we have a great sin but much harder to deny that we have never been harsh towards someone when we see our own failing in them. Intrinsically, we know that we are less than perfect even when we deny it. I really don’t believe we ever fool ourselves completely, but we try hard to look like we have done so. If we can crush the sin in others that is like a mirror showing us our own failing, then we never have to deal with our issue.
Today’s call is to see ourselves in all our frailties and failures. For when we see ourselves in truth , there is a wide open door for help. That help comes in the form of grace. The grace of God allows us to live and thrive in spite of our shortcomings. In receiving the grace of God, we not only have personal forgiveness but can begin to forgive others and be a reconciler of the world around us. As long as we hold back for our own sin, we are likely to be harsh with others. This harshness creates a tension for all we encounter. Offer your weakness to the ultimate strength that is offered by the grace of Jesus.
Merton acknowledges how powerful and painful it is to see this part of ourselves. Jesus says that he wants to take that burden away from us and that his burden is light. We spend a great deal of life fighting our pain and sin, and we do it the hard way. None of us will ever be able to save ourselves or reform the world enough to save it. God knew this, and he made the provision of Jesus the Savior and Messiah.
As people who seek to be followers of this Savior/Messiah, we have to realize that salvation is an ongoing process and not a one stop acquisition. As long as we live we will have to remove one log after another from our lives, but it begins with the first log. That log is admitting we can’t do it alone. Let us do so today and renew that grace everyday we live.
SEE YOURSELF TODAY
Lord, Today is a day of confession and repentance. I confess that I have been hard on others, because I have failed to fully examine myself. I invite the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin and shortcomings and ask forgiveness for them. I further ask that you remind me that I need a fresh dose of your forgiving grace everyday that I live and breathe. I ask this with a humble heart and a clear mind.
Midweek Thought #1
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it all the rest are not only useless but disastrous.”
― Thomas Merton
Merton challenges us to look inside of ourselves with great introspection that allows us to see ourselves as God and others see us. Many times we are shocked by the comment of a loved one or friend about something we have said or done. Our first reaction may be to say that we are misunderstood, but we will never really understand until we pause and take a deep look at ourselves.God sees in us what we cannot see in ourselves. The creator made us in his image and likeness with the knowledge that we would never live up to our full potential. Too often we hide behind our accomplishments and never take that voyage to the most difficult destination of all – our true self. Merton reminds us of this, but how do we begin that scary voyage? Let me suggest a few possibilities.
Learn to sit quietly in the presence of God.
Learn to say, “I was wrong.”
Learn to value others more than yourself.
These three possibilities are not a silver bullet to finding our true selves but some tools that will drive us deeper into that uncharted territory that lies within all of us. As we venture deeper into ourselves, God will give us the wisdom and courage to confront the bad and the joy of the discovery of the good. Remember, the image of God is imprinted in our DNA, and it is the desire of God that it come out. Spend some time today pondering the possibility that that image can emerge and I know God will bless you.
One nun came to Blessed Sarah and said to her: Pray for me, my lady. – The blessed one said to her: Neither will I have mercy on you nor will God unless you have mercy on yourself, fulfilling the virtues as the Fathers have commanded us.
——-Amma Sarah of the Desert
Forgiveness is the act of pardoning an offender. In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go,” as when a person does not demand payment for a debt. Jesus used this comparison when he taught his followers to pray: “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is in debt to us.” (Luke 11:4) Likewise, in his parable of the unmerciful slave, Jesus compared forgiveness with canceling a debt.—Matthew 18:23-35.
We forgive others when we let go of resentment and give up any claim to be compensated for the hurt or loss we have suffered. The Bible teaches that unselfish love is the basis for true forgiveness, since love “does not keep account of the injury.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.
The ability to forgive yourself is key to your psychological well-being. Unforgiveness of self causes a wide range of problems. Suicide, addictions and depression are just a few of the many things associated with self-condemnation. Psychologists struggle to develop creative ways to address this issue. Many suffer from a lack of awareness of their problem with this issue. Behavioral professionals, religious and irreligious, know the importance of self-forgiveness. Many corporate hours are spent in seminars that stress the necessity of learning the importance of forgiveness. This endeavor is tremendously costly for the corporate world.
Amma Sara knew about such forgiveness 1500 years ago, and said it was the place to start. God is a God of forgiveness and grace, and we must forgive ourselves in order to receive forgiveness. Our problem with self-forgiveness is that we don’t really believe in grace – that marvelous property of God that allows Him to forgive us even though we are most undeserving. Amma Sarah called the forgiving of ourselves a fulfillment of the virtues that were bestowed upon us by the Creator. Forgiveness, even of our own faults, is a virtue.
Lord, teach me to forgive others and to own forgiveness for myself. This ownership allows me to move forward. Lord allow me to set aside the crippling pain and shame that so possesses my life and move forward forgiving and forgiven.