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Friday, March 14, 2014

Character Defects and Havoc in the World

I am watching someone I normally have a great deal of respect for grapple with some real interesting manifestations of character defects. I am on the receiving end of some behavior the person has described to me before as something done to others. The description usually involves how the other parties call and BEG for some contact and/or recognition from the instigator.


I could, of course, call an end to the situation without much trouble. I am the supervisor. I can demand to be treated with respect and take the person to task for the childish and churlish behavior currently being demonstrated.

However, I want to just watch.

I want to watch because it is giving me insight into their true character, their real behavior and the possible reasons for why their current life situation is what it is - something that has puzzled me for years.

Based on the information given to me by the person in question, they should have had a full time job with benefits by now. They should be in better financial straits. They should be much more successful in their personal relationships.

Now, what was a mystery, is being revealed for what it really is: bad behavior that trips people like us up over and over and over again.

What I have always tried to be honest about with my readers and myself is a concrete acceptance and understanding of my own character defects. For many years I thought those character defects would mean I could never be a saint (what else is there to be? to paraphrase Mother Angelica) until I started to learn about the lives of many of the people praying for me in heaven right now.

I have a bad temper - sound familiar, St Jerome?

I can suffer from scrupulosity - right, St Therese?

I can feel so disconnected from God as to feel abandoned - Mother Teresa, pray for me!

I can hold a grudge - There's another Saint with the name Terese!

In other words, I have a full and complete understanding of my own failings, my terrible past, my struggles to get through the day without causing more chaos. I am so terribly tired of myself, sometimes, I wish I could leave me by the side of the road and just take off. However, what I always find to be true is that no matter where I run, there I am...and so maybe what needs to be corrected is not the place or the stuff but ME.

I am sorry for this person who is struggling right now. I want to put my arms around them and assure them they are not alone, it is not the first time someone has stumbled and put their big fat foot up their own backside (which is painful..let me tell you). It won't be the last time this happens, either; however, what must be realized is that throwing an emotional tantrum on those around you, especially those who love you, is the best way to assure that one of your biggest fears will come true.

And what, pray tell, is that fear?

The fear of being alone, of course! The fear that we will end up the little old lady on the block, living all by themselves with 19 cats. The fear that we will waste away in a bed in a nursing home and no one will remember to come in and feed us and no one, least of all those we loved and cared for for so many years, will ever come and see how we are or bring us an ice cream cone or take us for a walk.

The fear of abandonment. The fear of rejection.

During Lent, as a Dominican, I am called upon by the leader of our Western Province, to contemplate the greatest of Jesus' agonies during His Passion...the agony of the Silence of the Father. It is horrifying to feel so alone, so abandoned, so forgotten. It is awful to be left standing against the wall while everyone dances.

Yet how often do we contribute to that state by our own behavior? Our pouting, our grudge holding, our inability to say, "I am sorry I acted like a childish fool. Please forgive me?".

This next week of Lent, let's all contemplate the agony of the silence Our Lord experienced...and let's all ask ourselves, "Who causes our agony?".

I bet mine is caused by the woman I see in the mirror...and only I can change HER behavior.

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