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I'm a lover not a fighter. Ask anyone, I just am. I'd pretty much rather throw myself under a train than engage in conflict. Yet, in almost every single job I've had, I was the one who got the dirty work, the war zones, the conflict. I was "The Dirtmeister" when I worked in politics. I investigated the serious incidents for my company. I was the one who facilitated communication between warring factions. I can't even count the number of people I've just walked in and fired. You get sent to do a job, and you do it. You might hate it, but you do it.

The good news is that after al.l that I don't mind being hated, and threats on my life don't really bug me anymore. But, the conflict, I still avoid.

It's pretty easy for me to decide to just let something go. This is sometimes a manifestation of genuine humility. Sometimes being the operative word. Often it is just me wanting to believe that I am exercising humility, which I am generally quite proud about. Or, less frequently, it is me allowing myself the delusion of psychic martyrdom.

It's so thin, almost imperceptible, the line between virtue and sin.

I was just on the verge of letting something -- something fairly minor at that -- letting it go the other day. Then I read this from our friend Brother Thomas Merton:

Laziness and cowardice are two of the greatest enemies of the spiritual life. And they are most dangerous of all when they mask as "discretion."

And then this zinger:

Laziness and cowardice put our own present comfort before the love of God. They fear the uncertainty of the future because they place no trust in God.

...Laziness flies from all risk. Discretion flies from useless risk: But, urges us on to take the risks that faith and the grace of God demand of us....

And so I had to think very, very hard about what faith and grace demand of me. And I had to figure out whether I was exercising discretion, cowardice, or laziness. It turns out to have been pretty much a combination of the latter two. I knew it as soon as I read Merton's first sentence. Knew it immediately.

It's hard to know when I'm being truly good and when I just want to feel that I am being good. The virtue of humility sometimes collides with duty. And, no matter which path you choose, there are traps. Pride and self-satisfaction are lurking like thieves along the path. I don't know if you can ever be sure you've taken the right fork in the road on that. And obsessing about it after the fact is probably as bad as making the lesser choice in the first place. See how you can hardly win in the spiritual life.

I am thinking that I should close with something profound about how it's not about winning. Blah, blah, blah. I am pretty sure I could make you all feel good about that too. But, here's the thing: The kinds of risks God asks of us, the illogic of Jesus' Gospel demands, the risks required may well have us looking foolish, loosing face, loosing friends, loosing the things that this world tells us to value. And, to be honest, that sucks.

It's hard, it's confusing, and it sucks. And yet we continue.
Sometimes there's nothing comforting or profound. We just continue on towards Jerusalem.


The Merton quotes are from Thoughts In Solitude, Thomas Merton, Shambhala Pocket Classics, Chapter 5.

There's poetry here!


Wormwood's Doxy said...

Oh how we wrestle! I wrestle constantly with my temper--trying to gauge when speaking out will further the Kingdom and when it will just make me feel all self-righteous.

Christianity is not for wimps. I actually get tired of it a lot--but, for whatever reason--God will not let me go. Or maybe it's the other way around...


Barbi Click said...

I love Merton. He was so human most of the time and so holy at other times.

I think that every time I think in terms of God not letting go of me (especially in those times that I think I would like GOd to let go) I think that it is in those times that I cling the tightest.

oh my how I understand the "temper"...and the laziness...

MadPriest said...

"I am not a fighter"

Lindy said...

Well, MP, I am not going to argue with you about it.

We all struggle. That's how we can tell we're still alive.

It's o it's way up to 70 degrees here in Houston today. I am going to go to the thing at the museum about how xianity energed from judaism, etc. and then airthday supper with friends. A good day for me.

Love to all.

sharecropper said...

Sometimes feeling virtuous can lead us to true virtue and holiness.

FranIAm said...

"The kinds of risks God asks of us, the illogic of Jesus' Gospel demands..."

I need to sit with that for a long time.

Lindy said...

Well, that's a very good point ShareCropper. Faking it till you make it does sometimes help us make it. In fact, I think that it was also Merton who said something to the effect of how beneficial it is for us to know that self-righteous feeling of doing good so that we can know to let it go.

Fran, doll, don't take me too seriously. Loved the Matisyahu, btw.

Lindy said...

ShareCropper, Merton actually says that too. Not sure where but he does. He says that you have to have something in order to relinquish it. Thus, you have to have had and enjoyed the good feelings of doing good before you can give them up and so good for some other reason. There's always a reason, eh? He also talks about having to know yourself in order to truly become nothing at all. It's all very good stuff and I am not doing it justice.

Lindy said...

Oh. Nu. Well, apparently I was very taken by that point. Sorry for saying the same thing twice.