One day last week I came across a quotation that has stayed with me. “All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain.” This was penned by Richard Rohr in a book called Adam’s Return. It got me thinking about the various options: hiding our pain; denying our pain; projecting our pain; wallowing in our pain; learning from our pain, to name a few.
One of the pieces that the Once & Again Singers will sing on May 29 will be Charles Tindley’s “Stand By Me.” In part, the lyrics are: “When the storms of life are raging stand by me. When the world is tossing me like a ship upon the sea; Thou who rulest wind and water stand by me. In the midst of faults and failings stand by me; when I do the best I can, and my friends misunderstand, Thou who knowest all about me, stand by me.” It is a call to our better selves, knowing that we all make mistakes. We have a built-in sense of knowing what is right and yet, we sometimes make mistakes. Do we give up?
Richard Rohr also said: “I do not think you should get rid of your sin until you have learned what it has to teach you.” Now there is an interesting idea. In this circumstance I don’t translate ‘sin’ as having bad, guilty or worthless connotations. The term comes from archery and in that context it simply means to miss the mark. You may have hit some part of the target but not the bull’s eye. Is that cause for condemnation or shame? No. Missing the mark could be corrected in several ways. As Rohr says, it has something to teach you. And depending on what was missed, we can ‘adjust the rudder’ and continue.
We don’t have to deny our mistakes which will only lead to more mistakes. We don’t need to hide our mistakes in an effort to look perfect because at some point the bubble will burst and the pain will be unbearable. We don’t need to project our pain onto others because this would be an exercise in narcissism. Nor do we need to become a victim of our mistakes and deny our self-esteem. No. We re-align with our ideals and keep on going. Rohr puts the matter into a spiritual context because these things affect our spirit. The existential matter of pain is a human factor that we have the opportunity to transcend each time we have a learning experience.
So, that begs the question of how do we manage our decisions. American poet and writer Maya Angelou puts it this way: “I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.” Amen and so be it.