Essays - Summer, 2012
by Randy Roche, SJ
Below is a title and brief description of each essay. To read the essay, click on the title.
Sailing - The wind of the Spirit blows continuously and reliably enabling us to move about in every aspect of our lives.
A Book - How does it happen that a book comes to our hands at the time we most need it?
A Long Time - We, who are in time, are constantly reminded of its progression.
Tears - Many of us do not wish to let others see us with even a hint of tears in our eyes.
Back Flop - Our bodies and our spirits have in-built sensors that warn us of dangers.
Safety and Safe - People might think that they are safe as long as no one can cause them harm.
Short Circuit - Even in small matters, how we deal with “short circuits” is always an exercise of our spirituality.
Nothing - “Nothing” is sometimes the better response to our desires for understanding or for assistance.
Peace - Peace of heart is more than a surcease from disturbances of any kind.
Freedom - Much of our interior freedom is won in daily reflective decisions.
Alone? - We do not automatically have an appropriate love for ourselves.
I have never sailed a boat, even a small one, on my own. I have been sailing with others just enough to appreciate how it is possible to travel in almost any direction, no matter which way the wind blows. But even the experts at sailing are unable to go anywhere if the wind dies down completely.
The wind of the Spirit blows continuously and reliably enabling us to move about in every aspect of our lives. The more sensitive we are to the changes in direction of this wind, the better will be our journeys. Although we can avail ourselves of the wind to go wherever we choose, we can end up on the rocks or tipped over into the water if we do not attend to the indications provided us for the safer or better way to travel. The Spirit is not an inanimate object or a creature for us to use in any way we wish, but a living and active manifestation of love, always favorable to us, and therefore often favoring one direction rather than another.
Our common experience of nature’s breezes and winds is that they come and go without our being able to control them. We can often predict their intensity and general direction, and make plans based on our observations and practical knowledge. These winds do not advise or guide us. Rather, according to our desires and plans, we adapt our behavior to either go with the movements of air or to resist them. The breath of the Spirit deserves a different kind of response from us, because our experience of inspiration is not the same as that of the winds that blow.
We can freely choose whether or not to accept inspirations and whether or not to move in the directions indicated, but we do not create these common experiences any more than we call up the winds to blow when and where we might wish. To ignore inspirations would be like sailing a boat but failing to make any adjustment when the wind changes direction - a prelude to capsizing. Positively, when the wind of the Spirit or the gentle, just-perceptible breeze of the Spirit presents us with a thought, invitation or suggestion, we have an opportunity for making positive choices on behalf of ourselves and others. We are, at such moments, in the same advantageous position as if a trusted, loyal and loving person came up to us and said, “Try this.”
Sailing a boat or following our inspirations involves our free and conscious cooperation. We need to adjust our physical or spiritual sails to receive what we need in order to continue moving forward. The impersonal winds that blow across the waters may, from our perspective, be at times helpful for our purposes and at other times contrary. The very personal Spirit of God always blows in our favor, but only when we trust will our sails be filled, enabling us to journey to our destination with confidence and in peace.
Not everyone can learn to sail a boat, but all of us are capable of growing in our conscious acceptance of inspirations.
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A book, no matter how much a specific piece of writing might be praised or recommended to us, is only a series of printed words. Without our participation through thoughts, feelings and personal responses, a book is just paper with printing on the pages. Though we might stay up half the night reading an engrossing novel, most of us read a book over time, setting it aside, and returning to it for further reading, especially if we look forward to continuing our experience with reading it.
A book that we want to read is, for us, worth more than many books that we “should” read, or believe that we need to read for the information they contain. However we find a book, or a book “finds” us, when we have one in hand that speaks to our hearts, lifts our spirits, or gives us words that explain or describe our experiences to us, that book is for then, our book. If a book could be magical, it would help explain how mere printed words can at times reveal us to ourselves and at the same time draw us into communion with God, our fellow humans and creation.
We learned to read when we were young, starting with letters, then words, on to sentences and so on to our capability for understanding thoughts and ideas, and finally into the full integration of using memory, imagination and all our interior senses all at the same time. Reflecting on the process by which we are now able to gain so much from a book is itself a cause for gratitude. Reading a book, most especially the one that we want to read not just for entertainment, but to satisfy our deepest longing for “something more,” is never a chore, and almost always gives us cause for gratitude. If we have come to a time in our lives when we can feed our souls from a book, we intuitively know that we are in contact with gift, and the reception of such a gift spontaneously evokes gratefulness.
Some books speak to us again and again, or at least some parts of them. Who has ever finished with reading Scriptures as one would be finished with a paper-back novel, and then be done with it? Other books provide treasured insights into ourselves, or life, or relationships with God and others, and they are special for us only at a particular time in our lives. How then, does it happen that a book comes to our hands at the time we most need it, especially when we could not even specify or articulate our need? There are libraries and stores filled with hard-bound and paper-back books, but we often come across a book that seems to be written precisely for us. It might have been on a shelf at home, or be given to us, or we might have found it when we were looking for something to read, but once we have it, is as though a dear friend who understood us very well had suddenly come to be with us. When we have such an experience, and accept it is as a gift, we can reasonably and “faith-fully” expect that something similar will happen at other times when we are ready for growth of spirit, whether or not we recognize that we are at such a moment in our lives.
Every book has an author, but the one that becomes for a time “our” book is brought to us courtesy of The Author.
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A Long Time
People say of those who are in their 80’s, and of all who live beyond those years, that they have lived a long time, which is true. We can count the years. Children think that anyone over 20 has lived a long time, and from their perspective of so few years, they are correct; “a long time” is relative to a shorter extent of years. But what can we say of eternity? Is it a very, very long time?
We, who are in time, are constantly reminded of its progression: time not only does not stop, but it moves only in one direction, like traffic on a one-way street. We know the date of our birth, but we do not usually know beforehand the date when for us, time will end and eternity continue. We can answer many questions about the length of time, even counting in such terms as “light-years” for the ages of stars and galaxies that exist in time for far, far longer than human life on earth. But the stars’ “lives” are neither long nor short when compared to any one of us when we die to time and live on in eternity. How long is eternity? It does not end. Our minds cannot do much with the concept other than to accept it as a reality that is different than time, or reject the idea, or, as many do, pretty much ignore it.
Many people suffer greatly in this life, but very few really want to move on into eternity. Life in time is very precious to us, though we prefer for ourselves and for others that we not suffer grievously. Even if we do not usually look forward to the huge change from living in time, with which we are so familiar, to eternity, which is beyond our comprehension, yet the promise of more and better life is attractive. To think of a way of still being ourselves yet incapable of ageing or diminishment is so far beyond our experience that we can barely imagine the possibility.
When we were first year in high school, or in college, we could observe the seniors, and have some images and ideas of how we, in our turn, would become seniors. Day by day, and year by year, we grew and changed, yet remained the same person we were as first-year students. But, we also had many experiences of life and love, wonder and suffering, so that we also were different by far than during the four years previous. We do not have corresponding models for what we might be like in eternity. We may have heard reports of “out-of-body” experiences by people who were medically dead for a short period of time, or we might be familiar with Gospel stories of the Risen Jesus. Whether or not we find those reports and stories helpful, consideration of eternity - existence outside of time - is of considerable value to us who now live in time.
All life ends with death, but if we are honestly reflective about the mystery of love - of love for others and their welfare that is shown in deeds – we can recognize the timelessness of loving, and acknowledge the inbuilt desire that this capacity for love must have a non-ending quality, a quality which is beyond our control, just as was our entry into life in the first place. We can find within our experience that we are not made for temporary life, but for finding our unique way of loving, in time, that – amazing grace – requires that we continue into eternity.
Eternity is of such a radically different context for life, that “a long time,” which is a measure, has no relevance where time does not exist. We, for all our frailty, are meant literally to live forever.
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If we shed tears, the causes can vary from joy, awe or love to pain, anger or compassion, among many that are possible. Some of us are prone to weep rather easily while others hardly ever come to tears. Ignatius of Loyola wrote of a “gift of tears,” which was not so much about the phenomenon of water from our eyes as the far more important causes that might elicit tears, such as experiences of love of God, self or neighbor that involve not just our minds, but our whole selves.
My father was an attorney, and no one would have thought of him as “sentimental.” But, especially in his later years, his eyes would become moist when he spoke “from the heart” to or about family members. It seems that the body has an automatic response (tears) when certain emotions are allowed to move within us. Even when I am alone, something I am reading can begin to move beyond mere intellectual understanding to some level of appreciation that causes the unmistakable sensation – a bit of tingling around the eyes - that, unless I change the subject of my thoughts, will be followed by a bit of tears.
Many of us do not wish to let others see us with even a hint of tears in our eyes, and we have trained ourselves to override those feelings that might elicit them, even when we are alone. One consequence of such a discipline is that we might habitually prevent ourselves from fully appreciating beauty, as in a particularly appealing natural scene or work of art, or some heartfelt response to either a deeply joyful experience or one of equally powerful compassion or sadness. Many of our experiences have the potential to cause an overflow of emotions for which tears are an appropriate release and also a witness to the truth of what we take into our consciousness and the depth of its significance for us.
By choosing to allow our internal systems to function normally, we honor the way we are made and implicitly honor the Creator of such beautifully integrated capabilities. Before even a bit of water forms in our eyes, our bodies inform us that we are encountering some aspect of human life that is more than our minds alone can adequately comprehend. Whether we actually shed tears or not, we receive a physical indication whenever we experience transcendence - whenever the meaning to us is either more than what is contained in the immediate recognizable cause or resonates with our spirit beyond what our intellect perceives.
While some tears are “water for the soul,” others are experienced as “dry,” in the sense that no water spills from our eyes. Either way, we recognize within ourselves that we are in touch with a priceless reality that is not of our making, that we can never explain and that we might only be able to inadequately describe. Tears or no tears, we have an inbuilt capacity for experiences that are beautiful or meaningful beyond what our physical senses or even our intellects can grasp, yet our first indications that we are having such experiences is when we sense the possibility of tears.
Humans can weep and cry over many situations in life. But the “gift of tears” is primarily the sign by which we know that we are in the presence of our deepest good and our most important truth: love.
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I once tried to do a dive off a platform into a swimming pool: jumping forward but then falling backwards into the water. When done correctly, it is called a reverse dive. I did it incorrectly, and landed on my back with a resounding splash. The only injury was to my pride. I had thought and thought about the dive, and imagined my body making the appropriate movements. But more than thought is required for making the right moves, whether diving or driving, or making any decision.
A diver, a tennis player, or a used-car buyer who does not take into account his or her lack of experience when considering a new challenge will make far more mistakes than a person who has learned to pay attention to information not only from thinking, but also from our other interior senses. Our bodies and our spirits “know” as much as our minds. Most of us would not try to race a bicycle down a steep rocky hillside without any previous experience, because intelligence has to be joined to bodily knowledge of balance, timing, and judgment together with the spiritual sense that distinguishes between exciting challenge and unsuitable jeopardy. We are whole persons, not just embodied minds.
Our bodies and our spirits have in-built sensors that warn us of dangers so that we can consider carefully what we are about to do. But we can choose to turn down the sensitivity level, the “notification volume.” The first time we approach a window in a tall building, or stand on a sidewalk when a huge bus comes by, we might be quite aware of possible danger. If we become accustomed to the exact distance we need for safety, and we lower the intensity level of our bodily sensor, our internal warning will only be conspicuous to us when danger is quite proximate. Before I made my back flop, I knew that I was forcing the dive rather than waiting until I had gone through the necessary learning process of consultation with those who had succeeded in such dives, and doing the specific bodily exercises that are required as preparation. I had “turned off” my internal warning system, and literally flopped as a consequence.
In a similar way, we might have a pronounced sensitivity to not saying anything hurtful about another person. But we have control over the level at which our internal alarm will warn us of wrong-doing. We can turn our awareness down so low that it becomes possible to tear down the reputation of others with whom we might have a difference of belief or opinion with hardly any perception of warning in our hearts. We can “justify” destructive behavior by using reasoning that does not take into account the movements of our hearts where our warning system operates. Would we disconnect the alarms of a bank where we have stored our most important documents? Turning off our internal God-given alarm-system is like choosing to no longer protect the most valuable thing we have, our integrity.
We do not want to be governed by fear, so that we never take risks in an attempt to avoid all mistakes. But we have within us an excellent set of sensors that, if we take them into consideration as we make decisions, we will make fewer of the kind of mistakes that can cause harm to others or to ourselves. When we attend not only to our thoughts, but to the difference between peace and disquiet, between better and less good, we often make decisions that satisfy us at a deeper level than when we only think our way to a decision.
Back flops are neither a necessary nor a helpful way to learn anything.
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Safety and Safe
Some persons store valuable items in a safe. Most of us value much more highly than mere possessions, an abiding sense of being safe. In caring about anyone, including ourselves, we want all to be safe, though what we mean by “safe” might vary greatly depending upon persons and circumstances.
Parents want to keep their children safe from harm, which can include not only their bodily health and well-being, but also their sense of self-worth and their age-appropriate sense of right and wrong. For ourselves, we want some of the same, but we know that we require much more than that for a meaningful life. More than being safe, we might desire integrity, or we might set a higher priority on the care of others than on our own sense of safety.
Safety is often equated with security, so that persons who believe that their secure living environment, accompanied by sufficient financial arrangements, will keep them safe. But if a sudden family or health-related crisis arises, they find, through experience, that being safe cannot be appropriately compared with security. There has to be a way of thinking about “safe” that includes all in life that is beyond our capabilities for planning and organizing.
People might think that they are safe as long as no one can cause them harm. In this world, is anyone really safe according to those terms? While we do not deny the attractiveness of being protected from harm, as in a gated community, we have learned to look to a deeper reality in which we have reason to trust that no matter what happens to us, we can be safe. For example, no one can take away our integrity; Even if our bodies or minds begin to fail, there is no power that can force us to choose despair or hate.
Those who can afford every form of available protection cannot ensure for themselves safety from all negative possibilities, and none of us can avoid the kinds of thoughts and feelings that, however invisible to others, hurt us deeply. Relying on our own powers, we can never honestly or realistically claim that we are entirely safe. However, like those who, from a perch on solid rock can watch huge waves crashing below, we can look to that place within us where we experience the gifted assurance that “all will be well.”
Many of us have experienced our deepest sense of real safety when we began feeling most vulnerable, most challenged and not in charge of events around us. For some of us the discovery came through conscious prayer to the One who loves us and who holds us in purposeful being. Others might not speak of any communication with God, but would describe the experience in much the same way as the former group: a movement from fear or anxiety to relative peace and the sense that they are safe. The safety all of us can access is not something we create, and is certainly not something that we can acquire by any human means, as it is wholly and entirely a gift. But we can stop trying to force things to go the way we want as though we could thereby guarantee our safety. We can allow – hard as it is at times to trust that we will receive it – the gift to arise in the only place where being safe has its ultimate value and validity – within our hearts.
The safety that is available to everyone is a gift for the asking, but for us to know that we are truly safe, trust is required.
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A short circuit might describe a small-size race-course for cars, but most of us immediately think of occasions when the electrical power goes off, and someone discovers that a short circuit has occurred. We have to find and resolve the electrical problem, whatever it is, before we can turn on the lights or use the microwave, or do whatever we had in mind before the short circuit or other predicament interfered with our accustomed activities.
When we are faced with a sudden problem or obstacle to our plans, we can walk away, but the problem will remain; we can do something else for a while, but the obstacle will not disappear. When a “short circuit” occurs, the way forward is to find and face whatever difficulty confronts us.
If the lights go out or the appliances cease functioning, sometimes we only need to re-set a circuit-breaker and perhaps reduce the amount of electricity being used, and all will be well: an easy solution. But without taking that step, nothing changes. In life, we also can find ourselves in situations when our normal activities are suddenly blocked in some small way, and we must either seek the source of the problem or abandon what we were doing. If someone does not show up for an appointment, we can try to contact the person, wait a bit longer, or we can change our plans and move on from there. Even in small matters, how we deal with “short circuits” is always an exercise of our spirituality: we can peacefully and directly take into account an interruption to our plans or we can focus our attention on the present inconvenience and continue to live with “the lights out.”
Whether an interruption in our lives is a small nuisance or a major disruption, the longer we stay in the darkness of doubt or fear or even denial, the more difficult the resolution will seem to be and then become in fact. Whereas, the sooner we decide – and this is where even a short prayer and conscious openness to inspiration is of great help – the easier will be both our search for the answer and our putting it into action. We might have to work for a few minutes in the darkness of uncertainty while we figure out – pray over – the sudden darkness or loss of power. But as long as we do not deny that a problem exists, or ignore it, darkness and powerlessness are only temporary.
We do not have to be the spiritual equivalent of an electrician to use our heads and our hearts to look for the cause or source of hurt, anger, or frustration, and to either make the needed “repair” ourselves or seek some help. For most situations, we likely can contact someone who has had an experience of a setback similar to ours, and can suggest an appropriate remedy. In addition, we are always welcome to privately consult with, and receive help from, the gracious God of all circuits, whether “short” or long.
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What if we try to pray, and nothing happens, or we attempt to understand what is taking place in our lives, and are unable to do so? Is something radically wrong, or have we another perspective for viewing such experiences? We might recall the old joke about the person hanging on to a branch over a precipice and praying, “God help me,” only to hear, “Let go.” At which the person calls out, “Is there anybody else up there?” There are very few of us who have not had an unpleasant incident of receiving apparently nothing when we were very much in need of either direct help or a helpful idea.
We are time-centered creatures who understand that we live in the present, not the past or the future. When we want something, we usually want it now, or in the very near future. We might be quite clear about what we want, or we might be only aware of a generalized need, but the more immediate our concern, the more we want to receive, this second, the help or answer we seek.
As we reflect on some of the more uncomfortable moments of our lives when we most keenly felt a need, we might begin to recognize that not only have we moved on from those occurrences, but we have become more confident about the difference between what we thought we had to have at those moments and what actually worked for us. How interesting that we once felt our need so strongly that we thought only of help or escape. Upon reflection we find that sometimes the intense negotiations of prayer and inner struggle that were precipitated by our need have resulted in some very positive growth, perhaps quickly, but possibly after some time elapsed. We would not deliberately choose those difficult times as a means to becoming more fully human, but from moments of “nothing,” we have gained a more holistic capacity for dealing with some hard realities of life.
“Nothing” is sometimes the better response to our desires for understanding or for assistance: any immediate resolution would not in fact have met our real need to grow into another level of maturity. Only those who have directly faced suffering, who have at times apparently received nothing of what they wanted, have grown in self-understanding and therefore in compassion for the suffering of others. We are not lacking in care when we allow children and those in every level of education to have similar experiences: rather than doing everything for them so that they will not have to suffer even minor setbacks, frustrations, or failure, we support them and encourage them to face challenges and move through them to a level of satisfaction they could achieve in no other way.
God, in the person of Jesus, did not heal every person, or right every wrong; and he most certainly did not avoid suffering some of the worst things that can happen to a human being at the unjust hands of others. But we, like him, know when to offer immediate assistance to someone who needs food or understanding, and when to allow them, with our caring support, to work though their difficulties to a new and more appropriate understanding and appreciation for what is happening.
Sometimes, nothing is exactly what we need.
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War is not the only word for expressing the opposite of peace. We can think not only about the absence of extreme violence following the “cessation of hostilities,” but also the interior quiet that arises within us when we put an end to thoughts that do violence to our spirits. Who has not welcomed the calm that follows the dispersal of anxiety or anger? We greatly appreciate peace of heart as radically different from experiences of conflicted thoughts and their accompanying feelings.
Some might say that peace only follows victory after physical or spiritual conflict, or that peace is merely the absence of struggle. But peace of heart is more than a surcease from disturbances of any kind. Peace in one’s heart is also an inner conviction that “all is well” and is also a sign of God’s presence in the midst of this moment’s realities, whether pleasant or painful.
Just as we cannot enforce peace between two persons who both insist “my way or no way,” we cannot come to peace in our own hearts while insisting that we must have a particular thing, a certain personal quality, or a sure understanding of all reality, in order to be fulfilled. The main prerequisite for peace is a willingness to recognize and accept the gifts that are present in any and all circumstances. If there is any “price” to our receiving the gift of peace it would be in the necessity of letting go of our supposed ability to determine the sources of our happiness and acknowledging that spirituality is based as much on interior feelings as on thinking.
While experiences of peace often arise as a consequence of conquering some inappropriate movement within us, peace is more often appreciated as an abiding manifestation of an undivided heart that is oriented towards something greater than self. We can look to our past, and perhaps recall a time when we were confused and in turmoil over two alternatives, and could not arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. And we might recall another situation, somewhat similar, but one in which our commitment to a value or to a person enabled us to make a decision that was followed by a sense of peace that remained with us.
If we reflect on our experiences, we will recognize that we have never been able to create for ourselves peace of soul, and there is also no possibility of contenting ourselves with a faked sense of peace. More importantly, we have found that we have known peace within us during times even of physical, emotional, or spiritual suffering. Neither external nor interior pain can diminish the integrity of our values or beliefs. The only real obstacles to peace are either an unremitting attention to surface attractions and repulsions or a commitment to reasoning as the sole means for negotiating life’s challenges.
Thoughts and feelings may come and go on the surface of our consciousness, while peace abides as the familiar sense of being at home with ourselves, and at home also with God.
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Freedom from oppression is a great good, but freedom for doing well whatever we do is much greater. We seek to be free from what restrains us, but that is of no consequence if we do not freely give ourselves to others. Any of us might be free from control by others, and yet apparently lack the freedom to live a life of purpose. Every form of addiction, including not only substance abuse, but also the felt need to control every aspect of life, can severely limit us, whereas those whose lives are circumscribed by constraints of health or of human imposition are sometimes the ones who speak and act with the greatest freedom in their desire to make life better for others.
Some of our experiences of freedom are external and others are internal; some are mostly physical and others primarily spiritual. We might be free to travel anywhere in the world, and yet have such a narrow outlook that we cannot recognize the goodness of other persons who are physically different from us. Or, we might have so many responsibilities locally that we are hardly able to leave home, and yet be free in spirit enough to find beauty, meaning, and purpose almost everywhere we turn. Other persons can limit our freedom of movement, and our physical condition always places some constraints on us, but no one and no circumstances can take away our freedom to choose our attitudes, beliefs, and determination to love.
If others provide liberty for us, as when we receive independence as a nation or a degree of autonomy in the workplace as individuals, we only need to accept the gifts, we do not have to earn them. However, if we take such freedoms too much for granted, we might fail to exercise freely our interior disposition of gratitude. When we have to make efforts to gain freedom, as when we refuse to be coerced into buying something we do not need, we might value more highly even the apparently small amount of self-determination we achieve. Much of our interior freedom is won in daily reflective decisions to act according to inspirations and insights rather than compulsive influences.
Spiritual freedom is an ongoing cooperative gift which requires our acceptance as an absolute requirement, and is usually recognized as operative when we are able to “do the right thing” even against external or interior opposition. Because such freedom is a gift it is not of less value, but rather more, especially when we acknowledge the intention that is implicit in the gift: love. God creates us freely, in love, and only be responding to love do we grow in freedom. We know from experience that we are pressured from within and without to forsake freedom through participation in hurtful and hateful ways of relating to others, and through misuse of almost anything that exists. The experience of choosing what we know to be better rather than less good (or even destructive) is that of cooperating in the movement of God, Love, within us.
Freedom is a precious gift, the more so when we participate in becoming increasingly free to love.
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Loneliness in any form is an uncomfortable occurrence for most of us, intensely painful for some persons. The degree of pain is often inversely proportional to the level of self-confidence each one possesses, and is absolutely related to experiences of being loved. When we are alone at times, we might or might not be lonely, depending upon our perspective.
Self-confidence is not something that we can buy or quickly acquire at a time of loneliness, though the more deeply we feel that we are alone, in a negative sense of the word, the more we might be motivated to seek the means to developing inner strength. Some persons choose to be always in the presence of others as a means for warding off feelings of loneliness, but they remain dependent on their physical presence which can never be assured. Those who are willing to make the efforts to develop an appreciation for who they are, even when they are alone, discover a deeper truth: they are never really alone.
Some writers recommend “making friends with oneself,” thereby suggesting that reflection on our positive qualities is of more value than thinking about how we are bereft of companionship. At a deeper level, when any of us chooses to face our aloneness in the presence of God, the benefits are at least two-fold: a growing sense that we are not alone, ever, and that the One who is always with us, loves us. In a paradoxical manner, the means to healing the pain of loneliness is often achieved by taking some time to reflect on our gifts rather than on what we do not have, and to deliberately seek to encounter God in the midst of our feelings of loneliness.
We do not automatically have an appropriate love for ourselves, and can easily take the negative side of thinking that we know ourselves, especially our shortcomings, much better than others could know us. One of the saving mysteries of human life is revealed in the times when we rightly interpret the actions or attitudes of others as love for us. Based on some graced inspirations or intuitions, we make an act of faith that we are loved, even though we might be aware of some of our limitations or failings. No particular words or deeds of others and no careful screening of data on our part necessarily lead us to the conclusion that someone cares about us as we are. When the graced experience takes place inside us, one of the positive consequences is increased self-confidence. Loneliness does not thrive in the hearts of those who have been led to believe that they are loved.
Whenever we might be alone, and begin to have feelings of loneliness, we can recall some of the clear signs we have previously noticed indicating that we are loved. We can also turn inward to the God of all love, and experience anew that we are not alone. In prayerful reflection we will be able to recognize and acknowledge the great variety of ways that we are loved in this life: not only in those few very special relationships, but in every little nod of respect, each moment that someone listens to us, and all occasions when we are accepted as we are.
Alone? Not really.
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