Bearing the strain

In the pages of a prestigious writer on spirituality, I came across this autobiographical episode which I am transcribing. It is a rather “profane” example, for which I apologise, without renouncing to bring it here because of its exemplary nature.

Our writer was a teacher in a secondary school. One day, in class, while lecturing on sexuality and morality, the subject of masturbation came up. A student cut him off from his lecture, asking him, “Do you masturbate?” The professor’s first reaction was to become angry at the impertinence of the question. He turned his back to the class and facing the blackboard with the language of his body said what his lips did not utter (“This question you have asked is totally out of place”). However, he recovered from his first reaction, turned around and faced the student who had asked the question and said: “My first reaction was to tell you that this question is inappropriate and even more so, to ask it in the middle of class. However, since this is a morality class, I understand that your question has a lot of value. I will answer it, then, by saying that yes, I sometimes do it. And I am not proud of doing it. I don’t think it’s extremely bad to do it, but I don’t think it’s right either. However, I am profoundly certain of the following: I am a better person when I don’t do it, because I am resisting that tension that we, all of us, must endure in this life in order to grow and mature. I am a better person when I withstand that tension“.

Whatever the wisdom of this answer in terms of morality, it says something about what, in the final analysis, helps us to keep faith and strengthen it. We are better people when we withstand the contrary resistance that wants to paralyse us when we do good. The opposite is always looking for the easiest solution. To withstand that pressure, especially when it is very great, is to “believe” and “trust” in the biblical sense. We find examples of this in literature. What makes a hero or heroine great? What constitutes what we call “nobility of soul”? We usually assign that quality precisely to the person who, regardless of his or her own comfort, need or pain, is willing, in order to further a higher ideal, to endure great strain over a long period of time.

This applies to all areas of life, not just sexuality. The greatness of the soul is connected with the ability to face such a struggle. The great example of this is Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Lk 22, 39-44). There we see the necessary link between suffering and faith, the necessary connection between sweating blood in a garden and remaining faithful to his mission. No one will remain faithful in a marriage, in a friendship, in a vocation, in a family, in a job or simply in his or her own personal integrity without, at times, sweating blood in a garden. Like Jesus.


Juan Carlos cmf

(PHOTO: Luis Carlos Bonilla Soto)


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