I came across a posting on facebook yesterday that made me laugh out loud, long and hard. This is what I saw:
Pardon the profanity, please.
Boy, I thought, if it were only that easy! But how can you tell the *ssholes from the "normal" people - the good ones, the healthy ones, the trustworthy ones? I seem to get into the most trouble when I trust people who appear to be trustworthy, but later find that they are not who they appeared to be. Some of them behave like *ssholes, and I do indeed wish that I had stayed "the h*ll away from" them.
As I thought further about this, I realized that it isn't quite the Christian perspective on the key to happiness - and I am a Christian, so I need to contemplate this.
Jesus went out of his way to interact with those on the margins of society - I'll call them outcasts - the lepers, the poor, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes - and, even among his own disciples, betrayers. If I look deeply and honestly, I've got some *sshole in me, too - some leper, some things that aren't so pretty, admirable or desirable.
Richard Rohr posted something about this a few weeks ago, and it came back to me yesterday:
Hello...we can't stay away from *ssholes, because each of us has one, and perhaps, is one - a wolf - in some way, at some time. If we are really honest with ourselves, we can admit this. Though I have suffered my share of betrayals, and I would never intentionally do harm to another, I must admit that I have made mistakes, and am sure I will make many more before I leave this earth. If I am to avoid *ssholes, I would have to avoid my own wolf, and leper, too - and that's not possible. They are part of me. I need to tame and forgive those parts of myself before I can offer that kind of grace to another."Isn’t it wonderful news, brothers and sisters, that we come to God not by our perfection but by our imperfection?...Deep within each of us lives both a leper and a wolf, both of which we are ashamed and afraid of. In Franciscan lore, they are our inner imperfections...If we haven’t been able to kiss many lepers, if we haven’t been able to tame many wolves in the outer world, it’s probably because we haven’t first of all made friends with our own leprosy and the ferocious wolf within each of us. They are always there in some form, waiting to be tamed and needing to be forgiven." - Richard Rohr, adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 276
Fr. Rohr posted further:
"There is a cruciform pattern to reality. Life is filled with contradictions, tragedies, and paradoxes, and to reconcile them you invariably pay a big price...It eventually becomes evident that you’re going to get nailed for any life of real depth or love, because this upsets the world’s agenda of progress. This is not what the world wants, and not what the world understands. Any life of authenticity will lead to its own forms of crucifixion—from others, or, often, leading to various forms of self-denial. [The Gospel of] Mark constantly brings us back to the central importance of suffering. There’s no other way we’re going to break through to the ultimate reality that we call resurrection without going through the mystery of transformation, which is dramatically symbolized by the cross." - Adapted from The Four Gospels
So the cross is a symbol, a "note to self," a billboard, a banner, a memo, a reminder that this is the way life is; suffering is the way humans tend to experience transformation. We are not transformed by surrounding ourselves with a select group of people who will never hurt or disaappoint us (do such people exist?), but by mingling with whoever and whatever crosses the path of our life - including betrayals. Everyone has within him a wolf and a leper (or, if you prefer, an *sshole). You might not see that part of him right away, but you are likely to encounter it in someone. This doesn't necessarily mean you have made a mistake; it may be that this is your learning, your cross, your suffering, your transformative experience - at this time. Dang it!
This has been a lesson of the past 10 months, for me. I have regrets. I have spent a lot of time wishing I had been wiser about who to trust, but I was vulnerable, and did not see clearly. It helps to remember that this is the pattern of the cross - it is not personal; it is universal.
The following prayer in the book "Praying Our Goodbyes" by Joyce Rupp has been of enormous comfort to me recently (p. 114-116), and I hope it will be to you, as well:
"Keep my heart open to loving others and to being loved by them, God. Do not allow me to close off my life because of the scars of this painful rejection. Lead me into peace of heart. Help me to believe in my own goodness, so much so that I can reach out to others with confidence and receive their affection with trust. I pray for all those who have been brutally and harshly betrayed...and I pray for the one who has rejected me. Jesus, you continued to be a loving person even though you had been so painfully treated. Please help me to be a loving person, too. Amen."
I believe that kind of prayer is a real key to happiness...but the one posted on facebook did make me laugh!