The current wars being waged in our world today give me cause to speak of other, more immediate wars. Whether we know it or not, there is always a battle going on inside us. “Something” very powerful pulls us to live in peace and to radiate it. We can only achieve this if we deactivate the worst enemy: the one we all carry within ourselves. Gandhi understood this perfectly when he said:
“I have only three enemies. My favourite enemy, the one who can be most easily influenced, is the British Empire. My second enemy, the people of India, is much more complicated. But my most formidable opponent is a man called Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi. On him, I seem to have very little influence”.
Like Gandhi, it is up to us to defeat our own. The worst thing is that in trying to do so we follow patterns of self-criticism, if not self-loathing and self-aggression, which end up feeding the inner war, making it as hard as it is useless. By self-analysing ourselves only from the shadows, it backfires. We end up reinforcing the addictions or defects we were trying to change, because we give them oxygen.
It is common to find people in a permanent state of war. Like the case of that young man who rebelled at home because he had a very domineering mother. He rebelled at school because of the strict discipline of the teachers. He fought with his girlfriend because, according to him, she wanted to control him. He resented the food every day, or having to wait at traffic lights, or greeting the neighbour next door, or a rainy day… until one day someone told him: “You fight with everything. How can it be that you are so bothered by food, so bothered by noise, so bothered by others and even bothered by your thoughts? Don’t you think it’s strange? Deep down he was afraid of his shadows. As happens to (almost) all of us.
We humans aspire to goodness and peace, but we are also shadows: greed in having, ambition in power and vanity in appearing. As these shadows that constitute us frighten us, we declare war on them to the death. But the human adventure consists precisely in redeeming these shadows. To redeem, which is a genuinely Christian word, means to change their sign through compassion. Without ceasing to be negative, they lose their poison and serve to mature us. In this way, what appears as adversity becomes an opportunity for growth. The inner war is not stopped by force, let alone by flight or surrender, but by compassion. To compassionate is to embrace with love our pain, our impossible desires, our losses, our dashed hopes, our unrequited loves… and turn them into a healing force. This compassionate shudder is born of faith and is the way of growth, not simply self-acceptance. It is the paschal way. Faith does not spare difficulties, but it does resize them.
Juan Carlos cmf
(PHOTO: Sincerely Media)