The Challenge: The First Three Reasons

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February 5, 2013 by lucieromarin

So, the challenge was, in summary: after several decades of intense investment in one or more Catholic subcultures that might be described as ‘conservative’ or ‘orthodox’, you’ve ended up without vocation, reasonable income, or sense of self, but with some combination of burnout and disappointment. Can you feel grateful for this situation? And, if not, for what can you feel grateful in this situation?

I set up the challenge with reference to myself, but I’m hoping to express the thoughts in more general terms, on the grounds that no one needs to read a Lucy’s-self-help page, but might like to read something more widely applicable.

So! I think that acceptance or gratitude could begin at one of three levels:

1) Things could be worse.

2) I’m not glad things turned out this way, but, despite everything, I remain grateful for this, this, and this, which have been part of the package.

3) I’m actually grateful for this situation, because…

Let me offer, briefly, one reason for gratitude at each of these levels.

1) Things could be worse. This is very true, and anyone who denies it, realistically, needs to go to the DRC and learn what actual horror is. Now, I don’t believe that this kind of thinking is enough to bring about deep healing, but I do believe that it can stop pervasive negative thoughts from turning the mind entirely inward – and this is necessary for healing.

When I first set up the challenge, a consecrated virgin commented: I think that one thing you can be grateful for is that you still have your freedom. As lonely as it might be to be single, I’m inclined to think that it would be much, MUCH worse to have been married young to a man who didn’t have a healthy understanding of the dignity of women, or who didn’t have realistic expectations of what family life should be, or who was militantly committed to being “more Catholic than the Pope.”

She is right. While it’s true that, for roadkill, a part of the suffering of singleness is that it feels like betrayal, having happened despite the assurances of every authority under the sun, it is also true that that disappointment is yoked to a situation in which there is still a certain freedom. And how many unhappily married women are able to talk freely or truthfully about their unhappiness?

2) I’m not glad things turned out this way, but…I think that most of us could find a number of things to be grateful for at this level. I’m saving one real reason for gratitude for another post, but I’ll start here with one that is, unfortunately for this post, particular to me. It can be hard to be childless amongst friends with children…but when those children call from the church gate, “We love you so much!”, when they snuggle up next to you to ask for stories, or when they send you letters and drawings, it’s pretty hard to be sorry that you know them!

3) I’m actually grateful for this situation because…seen in a different light, it offers the best of two worlds. The reason we get so deeply involved in these communities is because we really care about two things – truth, and making the world a better place. The reason we ease off is because we feel that the community’s methods are a seriously mixed good when it comes to both values. However, the fact remains that learning to care about truth and longing to do holy works are both enduring goods that enrich the person who possesses them. (If you don’t believe me, think of a selfish, annoying, greedy liar, and then ask yourself if loving truth and goodness is such a bad thing.) So, your conservative experience has given you something of lasting value – and the burnout has taught you something else of lasting value, which is how to not destroy other people with your enthusiasm. If you’ve seen how you’ve been hurt and you can see how to avoid repeating it, you’re one step closer to becoming the person that you wanted to be in the first place! Without the love of truth and goodness, you’d be the aforesaid selfish person. Without the burnout, you’d be the oblivious and over-enthusiastic person accidentally creating casualties on your own side in the so-called Culture Wars.

Well, I hope that didn’t sound too preachy, but it’s certainly good to feel the beginnings of gratitude!

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