As the new year begins, maybe there is a situation that is heavy on your heart. The current racial tensions, fears of terrorism or even family division can make us feel weighed down and depressed. I recently described these feelings in Confession/spiritual direction and was given advice that has helped me greatly.
1/ Examine your conscience. When we are faced with difficulties, it is beneficial to look at our own part in our struggles. Did I cause a division, did I act or fail to act in a way that may have prevented the situation that is causing me pain now. It can be hard to see our own part in problems sometimes. A trusted friend, accountability partner or spiritual director can help to you to work out your part (or lack of it) in a particular circumstance. In one instance, I was actually challenged by the priest to recognize that I could not ‘fix’ anyone else’s dysfunction.
2/ Apologize. If you find that you have contributed in any way, a heartfelt apology can go a long way to resolution. Sometimes, just an acknowledgment that another person felt hurt (even if it was a miscommunication or perception by the other party), can aid in reconciliation.
3/ Forgive, especially when no one asks for your forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. Choose forgiveness for yourself, as much as for the other party.
4/ Make Amends, if appropriate. If you have caused pain to another, find a way to make amends to them. Remember when doing this that actions do speak louder than words. We can work to see everyone as an individual, a child of God, who deserves to be treated with dignity. That can be a huge challenge when talking about our enemies, political opposites, or family members who have hurt us. I believe we can rise to that challenge with God’s help and grace.
5/ Let it go. There are times that problems (even relationships) cannot be fixed. Moving on can be the most charitable thing to do under those circumstances.
6/ Recognize your limitations. A wonderful prayer was given to me by my parish priest, “Lord, I have no power over these emotions. Lord, be my power!” Another priest told me to offer those painful feelings and conversations I have in my head, up for my own sanctification. He told me, that if the torment was from the devil, he would eventually get tired of me offering it up and stop. If it was from the Lord, acknowledging the gift of sanctification would also bring about a quicker peace.
7/ Pray for the landscape to change! This was my favorite piece of advice, because it applies to any difficult situation. Father Dan advised me to pray that whenever someone who didn’t like me thought of me, even if it was critically, that they would be filled with a joy and peace that they couldn’t explain. He said that eventually, when they saw me, their hearts would be filled with the same joy. I have learned to apply this to other situations: for enemies or opposite groups to be filled with joy at the thought of the other group, for those away from God to be filled with joy at the thought of God, etc. It has restored in me a sense of empowerment and control when I felt none.
The new year should be a new beginning for all. Give yourself a gift on the Epiphany (the twelfth day of Christmas, or Three Kings Day) and find peace in a situation that has been causing you unrest.
Copyright 2014 Mary Lou Rosien