A friend of mine asked me if I was "doing anything" for Lent. Coming from a long tradition of Catholicism this was a very appropriate question. As Catholics (and other traditions) we are asked to consider giving up something that we enjoy or to do something that would represent a sacrifice to remind ourselves of the sacrifice that Jesus gave to us by dying on the cross. In years past, I would give up chocolate or make a commitment of service to someone in need. (And, as true friends of mine know, giving up chocolate is nothing to sneeze at :-)
But, as I was prayerfully thinking about this this year, a strange thing happened. The answer was a non-traditional one. Initially I brushed the idea away and lazily continued with my day. Then I realized that the sacrifice that was presenting itself was a difficult one indeed- and my initial dismissal might really be one of cowardice.
I will attempt to share with you what came to me, but I am not sure I completely understand it or can fully articulate it. You see, it has to do with thoughts and thought processes.
When I feel judged by others (rightly or wrongly) I have a compulsive thought process that consumes my energy. It remains there even when I am not purposefully concentrating on it. It has something to do with not being able to let go of the other person's judgement of me. Stuck in a limbo place of wanting feedback, yet not getting lost in the feedback; hurt that they would think such things of me and feeling wronged by their assessment.
Many times, I am able to deal with criticism - this obsessive dynamic comes only when the person, after being somehow wronged by me, labels me as a "bad person". If the criticism is rooted in an action or behavior of mine, I usually can either change the behavior or determine that it is a difference of opinion and move forward. It is when the person couples one of my behaviors with a motive or a judgement that it really throws me.
I guess God is asking me to let go of this fruitless process. I just end up fretting or toggaling between rationalizations, insecurity and despair. I am sure most people go through this process but I know for a fact that my process, in this way, does not help me- at all.
So to let go:
~I need to let go of the idea that I can be all things for all people.
y~I need to let go of the notion that I should automatically and inequivicably take outside criticism while ignoring my own internal guide or judgement.
~I need to let go of the wish to be accepted by others- some people will not be that into me or
may not see me the way I hope that they would.
~I need to let go of the obsessive thoughts that come with trying to problem solve- sometimes,
problems cannot be resolved.
~And, sometimes I need to let go of people in my life that contribute to this thought process, it just may be that the chemistry between myself and them is such that it does not work.
I mean, if a person makes me out to be a bad guy and cannot see anything different- how does it serve me to be with them? I think I need to ask if any amount of work or problem solving really will make things better? If not, it may be time to move on. I suppose it would make a difference if these folks wanted to reconcile and were open to a better connection. Sometimes people are not ready- and that stands for me too.
For the record, I only have this particular situation with 3 people in my life. And for each, the situation is different and probably will take a different course of action. For what it is worth, I think it will take some form of letting go to move forward with each of them. I think it may be necessary to let go of the current situation in order to realize something new or healthy in the future.
The other element I am recognizing is that I am trying to give love where there is judgement and try to change energy that way. I think I need more prayer to figure out how to let go and I feel fortunate to have discerned what my Lenten promise should be- now to the actual practice.