Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Recipe For Discord

Christ brought love to the table. Let us do the same.  Icon by the hand of Nicholas Papas found at Come and See Icons.

A sure fire way to disturb your peace, and those you around this holiday season, is to cook up a big vat of resentments and bring them to the table. And don't fret if you don't have any really large ones.   Just toss a few small ones in a bowl, get the whisk out and start beating them into a frenzy. That works too.  They can be old, they can be new. There are no expiration dates on resentments.  It's like they are soaked in succulent formaldehyde.  De-lish!

Unfortunately what is tasty is not always nutritious.

O resentments!  I hate you!  I wish you would just go away! I don't let you though and that's the biggest part of the problem.  It's like reaching for that second brownie.  I know I shouldn't have it, but ohhhh, it's just so yummy! I grab it, eat it and then I'm totally bummed because, well, that was 10 grams of fat I really didn't need.  Remember the expression "A moment on the lips, forever on the hips!" Resentment could be "Once allowed in the heart, forever does discord impart!"

Yes, that is a Desert Deliberations original. You heard it here first.

The below link is a brillant article written by the Metropolitan Jonah, the head of the Orthodox Church in America, on resentments and inner peace.  The article is very readable, makes acute observations and gives  tangible, employable advice.

Do Not React, Do Not Resent, Keep Inner Stillness

Here's a brief preview:
One of the things which is so difficult to come to terms with is the reality that when we bear anger and resentment and bitterness in our hearts, we erect barriers to God’s grace
within ourselves. It’s not that God stops giving us His grace. It’s that we say, “No. I don’t want it.” What is His grace? It is His love, His mercy, His compassion, His activity in our lives. The holy Fathers tell us that each and every human person who has ever been born on this earth bears the image of God undistorted within themselves. In our Tradition there is no such thing as fallen nature. There are fallen persons, but not fallen nature. The implication of this truth is that we have no excuses for our sins. We are responsible for our sins, for the choices we make. We are responsible for our actions, and our reactions. “The devil made me do it” is no excuse, because the devil has no more power over us than we give him. This is hard to accept, because it is really convenient to blame the devil. It is also really convenient to blame the other person, or our past. But, it is also a lie. Our choices are our own.

On an even deeper level, this spiritual principle – do not react – teaches us that we need to learn to not react to thoughts. One of the fundamental aspects of this is inner watchfulness. This might seem like a daunting task, considering how many thoughts we have. However, our watchfulness does not need to be focused on our thoughts. Our watchfulness needs to be focused on God. We need to maintain the conscious awareness of God’s presence. If we can maintain the conscious awareness of His presence, our thoughts will have no power over us. We can, to paraphrase St. Benedict, dash our thoughts against the presence of God. This is a very ancient patristic teaching. We focus our attention on the remembrance of God. If we can do that, we will begin to control our troubling thoughts. Our reactions are about our thoughts. After all, if someone says something nasty to us, how are we reacting? We react first through our thinking, our thoughts. Perhaps we’re habitually accustomed to just lashing out after taking offense with some kind of nasty response of our own. But keeping watch over our minds so that we maintain that living communion with God leaves no room for distracting thoughts. It leaves plenty of room if we decide we need to think something through intentionally in the presence of God. But as soon as we engage in something hateful, we close God out. And the converse is true – as long as we maintain our connection to God, we won’t be capable of engaging in something hateful. We won’t react.
A very good read, epecially during a time in which we will soon be reunited with family members and friends.  Let's not present a platter of resentments as our contribution at this year's holiday meal.  For sure, no one will ask for the recipe.


CarlynB said...

Thank you so much for this post. It was timely for me.

Chris said...

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Cor. 9:6-8)