“All sunshine makes a desert. And nothing flows or grows in the harsh glare of the Sahara sun. The desert needs dark things and places and times for any kind of blossoming to happen. The same with us. We would never know light if we never experienced darkness. We could never know love if we never experienced fear. Nor would we ever forgive if we had never been hurt. The challenge is not to get rid of the shadows and flaws and hurting bits; the challenge is to somehow recognise them, accept them, befriend them, recognise their usefulness, and then, integrate them into the rest of our lives.
That is the supreme task. That is the journey of our souls. That is what the greatest among us are always trying to do. Even Jesus swung and swayed, in intense torment, between giving in to and resisting his temptations, between refusing and accepting the chalice of his destiny. There is no other way to travel the inner journey, to pursue the grace of self-awareness, to achieve personal authenticity, to find our soul. We are only called to be ourselves, to be nobody else, to be grateful for the bagful of eccentric and often scary bits and pieces that make up our personalities. Only then can our beautiful and alluring qualities be seen to good effect.
When we struggle too hard to be perfect, we only lose heart quickly. When we attack the faults and foibles that crowd around the kitchen of our souls, we only make them stronger, more damaging and more subtle. Strangely enough, the
best advice is to welcome them all into your heart. I like to believe that even the most fearful and threatening mini-monsters that prowl around the perimeters of our inside spaces are all bringing us some kind of gift. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said ‘Love your enemies’. Or what the Eastern gurus mean by ‘embracing your shadow’.
It may not be a very wise thing to do, then, to strive to cut out of ourselves those parts that cause us trouble. We don’t cut out or cut off those members of our bodies that are unhealthy; we work towards their healing. It is that way too, with the things of the spirit. There is no point in accusing ourselves, in denying what is essential to us, in ripping out all that isn’t ‘good’. They all only grow again, return again, suddenly appear again, more threatening and aggressive than before. So, beware of the compulsion to perfection. It is not what wisdom is about. It brings no peace. In fact, it often works the other way round!
What I, myself, endeavour to do is to welcome the dark bits of myself and make friends with them. They are all a part of me. We need our demons as well as our angels to form the amazing and unique person that we are. Without the contrary energies and impulses within us, there would be little movement or dance. Jesus himself, and all our greatest role-models, had to live with and deal with the most frightening of counter-forces, temptations, doubts and devils. We, who may not be quite in their league, are no exception.
That is why self-awareness, to be present to ourselves and to each moment of our lives, is about as far as we can go. Whatever way we are, that is the way we are. When we get it right, we get it right. When we get it wrong, we get it wrong. Such are the shapes and colours of authenticity and honesty about our true feelings, motivations and the hidden workings of our mysterious minds. This kind of acceptance does not mean that we settle for less. It means that we settle for nothing less than reality and the truth. And, when we sit down for our daily few minutes of silent prayer, it is a very good place from which to begin.”
From Are You Trying Too Hard To Be Good? by Father Daniel O’Leary