I feel very sure just about everyone has blind spots or crazy spots in their personality. They come with the territory of being a human. I think they come with everyone’s DNA, but often, if not always, are intensified by experiences or lack of experiences in our impressionable youth.
One of my particular personality type’s blind spots is idealism, which is not bad if balanced with enough common sense. But unfortunately that seems to come to some of us very late in life. So, we develop survival mechanisms to minimize the pain of constant disappointment and frustration with the world, including with ourselves.
Some of us pick an idealistic goal in a particular area and simply focus on it with total tunnel vision while pouring all our energies into it. Unfortunately, eventually most of us either burn out or catch on that we can only inch toward ideals in this flawed and very unfinished world.
Others of us latch on pretty early to the pleasure principle….pleasures block pain…..so we eat, drink and make out with Mary or Harry. Eventually this either kills us, destroys our relationships or gets us run out of town, so we too are challenged to face the pitiful little realities of human existence.
So down deep many of us fear that what is actually driving us is congenital insanity. Naturally, we’d rather cling to an addiction, which we assure ourselves is either a virtue or else something that we could always get over, than face our fear that we are crazy. Because being crazy might not be something we are able to do anything about. Maybe all the world’s pills and all the world’s doctors couldn’t put our tiny cracked selves together again.
If we are lucky enough (or blessed) to find a source of love – just as we are, we can become able to bear the pain of disillusionment about ourselves and thus the rest of the world. Then most of us, after settling only temporarily in the valley of cynicism, will find our way to a reasonably satisfying existence as inch worms on the plateau of realism.
I did not manage to pray or meditate on peace exactly last Sunday. But I was praying and working my way through articulating a request for forgiveness from the Elders (Session) in my church. I have been alienated from my church for over two years.
I have prayed and struggled with this the whole time, but only recently saw that I have made choices that increased the mutual estrangement, instead of moving us toward reconciliation.
Several times over my seventy-six years, I have taken offense at what friends said and cut off the relationships. Two particular women, a decade or more older than I was, had done many kind and generous things for me and my family, but unfortunately they said things that hit me where I felt most vulnerable. And I let them literally die without ever saying I was sorry or even telling them why I became alienated.
I realized when beginning to be a part of B4Peace and the Sunday night prayers/chants for peace, that since I have had several small strokes and three clogged arteries in my head recently, I might not get a chance to reconcile, if I postpone saying that I am sorry very long.
Asking to be on the agenda for a Session meeting, sitting waiting for it to begin, feeling like the elephant in the room that nobody was mentioning, trying not to say anything accusatory, just to take responsibility for my part, was just about the hardest thing I ever remember doing.
With some encouragement from our minister, most, maybe all, said that they accepted my apology. But the response was less than warm and no one volunteered any apology for their part in the conflict. By the time I got to my car, I was in danger of getting angry once again. What I realized is, that forgiveness takes one side, reconciliation takes both sides. And that forgiving them was my problem, because forgiving them reconciled me to God. Their being sorry was their problem.
In working through aspects of this estrangement, I have realized that an area of oversensitivity caused by my own inability to admit a weakness, blew everything out of proportion. Admitting to the reality of that particular limit has set me free of a source of fear and defensiveness.
Another outcome of this spiritual struggle has been recognizing how my idealism often gives me a critical spirit. The truth is that God is much more realistic about our human limits than we are. Yes, we aim for the ideal. Yes, we encourage and share insights with others in our spiritual journey. But, at any given time our vision may not be the same as God’s. He/She may have an entirely different agenda. Letting go of our preconceived ideas, at least holding our vision lightly with fingers open, is the only way we will ever hear God and the only way we will ever have peace.
I have already forgotten the source, but a quote helped me at a crucial point in coming to grips with how destructive my unrealistic expectations have been: “Do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”
I do not tend to see the glass as either half empty or half full. I see it as a challenge. I start imagining possible ways to fill it to overflowing. There have been times that this trait was perfect for my situation/job/project. I was in the right place at the right time with enough resources and talented support people who shared my vision.
But recently , I’ve recognized that the situation I am in now does not have the resources or people with the shared vision. And I cannot accomplish my goals alone, nor should I, even if I could. If God wants it and I’m willing to do whatever, God will supply what else is needed. Otherwise, instead of either trying to force my oughts and shoulds on others or silently judging them as falling short, I need to wait on God. He may know that here and now, a half empty glass is all that is needed to accomplish His purposes, which are more important than my need to feel important or successful or smart or superior.
My wanting to always make everything bigger and better is like having only a hammer, when what may be needed is only a dust cloth.
How peaceful it is to be still and know that He is God, and I am not.
What a gift!
Thank you, God, for setting me free.