Trust in Him

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Defensiveness


Learn of Me, because I am meek, and humble of heart:
and you shall find rest for your souls.
(Matthew 11:29)

For many, but especially for me, humility does not come easy. One aspect of humility, admitting vulnerability, comes even harder. Vulnerability to God is easy enough... He is Almighty, and we need His mercy and love to survive. It is vulnerability to others that is simply not natural to me. Therefore, for any who feel that this has been something with which they struggle, know that I speak directly from personal experience when I explain this particular fault.

In Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis explains this point very well when he says that because we live in a world so full of sin, and we ourselves are guilty of sin, we are afraid. This is so true! We fear to make mistakes, we fear being wrong, and worst of all we often fear being ourselves. For this reason we become defensive, and attribute as little fault to ourselves as is possible. Other times, for fear of being proved wrong about ourselves, we attribute imaginary faults to ourselves, hoping that others will expect less of us than they actually can expect. This fear, and defensiveness, is so natural to some of us... and it is something that can make life miserable.

The results of this natural defensiveness can be very surprising when listed successively. Because we fear to make mistakes, or to be caught making mistakes, we will be striving for a perfection out of our reach; causing us to be dissatisfied with ourselves and troubled with a guilt approaching scrupulosity. We will feel that everyone is looking at us, and that we are being constantly judged by those around us. Our defensiveness can rise to aggressiveness when our opinions are questioned, and we will often close our eyes to the truth simply because we feel that the world will crumble around us if we are not right. We can be moved to such despair, and inner anger at ourselves, that we are unable to determine the faults we are actually guilty of; resulting in hazy vision in spirituality and the inability to make a proper examination of conscience. Surprisingly, this defensiveness is rarely rooted in pride, but more often is rooted in a lack of confidence and pressing guilt.

Thankfully, once we have identified this painful fault within us, it is not very hard to fix. We are all ignorant and imperfect, and we will often be wrong... but what is wrong with this, if God understands it so well? Jesus asks us to trust Him, and to let Him guide us. We proclaim Him Lord, Father, and Brother... He is life and truth for us... therefore we are called to put our confidence in Him and, through this confidence, be confident in ourselves because He lives within us. We are called to be like children, joyfully accepting correction and striving for improvement. Also, like children, we are called to trust Jesus and, though we know ourselves to be very small, to be confident in our own strengths when Jesus is with us.

There are some things that it is helpful to remember in order to avoid this fault. When listening to the advice of someone older or wiser than yourself, always show the deepest respect... even if you question the correctness of what they say. When you are found to be guilty of something, listen quietly to the accusation and spend a few moments in silence before accepting or denying the fault. Whenever you have a disagreement with someone else, always assume first that it is your own fault, and then objectively determine the real issue and how it can be remedied. Always be the first to apologize if you are wrong, but voice your opinions only with the sincerest confidence. If you are sincere, you are worthy of respect even if you are wrong. Above all, pray for the grace of humility from Jesus. Never assume that you know anything without bringing it to Him in prayer and laying it in His hands, asking Him to enlighten your mind. Do not try to be confident in your own abilities and strengths, but rather, be confident in Him and associate Him with your every gift... so that in taking pride in what you accomplish, you are giving glory to Him.

May God give you peace!

3 comments:

  1. This entry sums me up very, very well.

    I'm so intrigued by your calling. I think I was seven or eight when I contemplated being a nun--albeit briefly, and it was probably from the influence of Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music!

    It's so rare to see modern teenagers embracing holy orders. I recently met a guy my age entering the priesthood, and I was stunned! But it makes me proud that there are people our age who want to give their lives to God's service.

    I know now that I'm definitely called to be a wife and mother--I might not be a bad nun, but I'll be a way better spouse. :)

    Good luck with everything! What exactly is the process for becoming a Poor Clare? Why did you choose that order? Sorry for all the questions!

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  2. Welcome Alyssa! I'm glad to see you enjoy my blog, even though you do not feel called to the religious life :).

    I think that the reason most people do not embrace Holy Orders in this culture is because there is so much noise, so much happening, and seemingly so much to "live for"... as well as the mindset that the only way to really live is to only accept what you know to be true and seek absolute personal freedom to do what you think will make you happy. It makes religious life seem old, foolhardy, and unimportant.

    But, trust me on this one, there are many, many religious vocations out there. If only people really understood what it meant to be a religious, and how precious that vocation is! Also, more people would be happy.

    So, you asked me a rather hard question... why did I choose the Poor Clares? First, I knew I was called to a religious order and to be a Spouse of Christ. My communication skills aren't bad, but my spirituality insists that I'm meant for a cloister (helping people afar through penance and prayer is perfect for someone as helpless as me). The idea of total abandonment of myself, my pride, and all my worldly goods pointed directly to the Poor Clare poverty, and that has always been a strong part of my vocation. The need I have to give all, and love intensely, makes the strict rule and discipline of the Poor Clare life perfect for my relationship with Christ and His Children. Oh, there is so much more! But that is where Jesus led me, and I found peace in my decision to enter, so the bottom line is I know Jesus has asked this of me.

    Well, I have to spend six months to a year in an aspirancy program which helps prepare me for the contemplative lifestyle and purifies my motives so we can be sure I actually have a vocation. When I enter the process goes something like this:

    6 week in enclosure: this is just the introductory stage... no commitments as yet, but still getting the feel of the cloistered life.

    1 year of postulancy: this year involves a lot of study concerning the order and rule and stuffs, and acclimating to the religious life.

    2 year novitiate: this occurs after clothing and is simply two years as a "baby nun".

    3 years temporary vows: this occurs after the Novitiate, when a nun actually takes vows, but it is not permanent.

    Final Vows: Poor Clare Nun

    Thank you! Don't apologize for asking questions, it annoys me that I get so little feedback because I do not know what people need to hear about. It isn't about what I want to write, I want to benefit others if that is possible. Know that I'll be praying for you, and that you find a good spouse (if you haven't found him already) :).

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  3. "Because we fear to make mistakes ... we will be striving for a perfection out of our reach; causing us to be dissatisfied with ourselves and troubled with a guilt approaching scrupulosity."

    Thank you, I have felt like this recently. Thank you also for your good advice in this post, about humility, respect and trust.

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