don’t beat yourself up

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Last week we talked about the Accuser, the Enemy, who lies to us and condemns us.  But he’s not the only one condemning us – it’s often ourselves.  And the trickiest part is, these accusations are often based on a grain of truth.  It may not be true that “I am a terrible mother,” but it is all too true that I have lost my temper at my children.  It may not be helpful to tell myself “this house is embarrassing,” but sometimes it’s true that I’ve misused my free time and that a messy house is one of the consequences.  What then?

Here’s what I’ve been hearing from the Lord about this problem: Don’t beat yourself up.

Several weeks ago, I spoke with a friend who seemed to be beating herself up over a tough situation in her life.  At the same time, I happened to read passages from two different spiritual authors that spoke directly to the problem of scrupulosity.  The Lord is so good to us – of course it could all have been a coincidence, but I really think the Lord set those words in front of me in order that I could share them with her.  The words jumped off the pages and I knew immediately I had to tell her about them.

I also knew – this was shortly before Uncommon Motherhood went live – that at some point, I wanted to share these words with you all.  So here goes …

The first passage was from The Practice of the Presence of God, which is a series of conversations that were recorded with Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay Carmelite.  The author says of Brother Lawrence:

That when an occasion of practicing some virtue offered, he addressed himself to God, saying, Lord, I cannot do this unless Thou enablest me; and that then he received strength more than sufficient.

That when he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God, I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself; ’tis You must hinder my falling, and mend what is amiss.  That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.
Did you catch that?  When he failed, he was totally unsurprised – of course I failed, Lord, you have to help me – and then he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.

The second passage I encountered was from a French priest, Fr. Jacqes Philippe:

The real spiritual battle, rather than the pursuit of invincibility or some other absolute infallibility beyond our capacity, consists principally in learning, without becoming too discouraged, to accept failing occasionally and not to lose our peace of heart if we should happen to do so lamentably, not to become excessively sad regarding our defeats and to know how to rebound from our falls to an even higher level.  This is always possible, but on the condition that we not panic and that we continue to maintain our peace.
One could, then, with reason, enunciate this principle: The first goal of spiritual combat, that toward which our efforts must above all else be directed, is not to always obtain a victory (over our temptations, our weaknesses, etc.), rather it is to learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat.  It is only in this way that we can pursue the other goal, which is the elimination of our failures, our faults, our imperfections and sins.  This is ultimately the victory that we must want and desire, knowing, however, that it is not by our own strength that we will obtain it and, therefore, not pretending that we can obtain it immediately.  It is uniquely the grace of God that will obtain the victory for us, whose grace will be the more efficacious and rapid, the more we place maintaining our interior peace and sense of confident abandonment in the hands of our Father in heaven.
Isn’t this great?  Leave the battle to the Lord, and just try to be peaceful.
This post is getting long, so I will leave you with a link to some more recommended reading: the two passages above reminded me very much of the chapters “On Gentleness Towards Others” and “On Gentleness Towards Ourselves” in Introduction to the Devout Life.  The entire text of the Introduction can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/devout_life.v.viii.html.

May God bless you today and give you his peace!
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