Everyone has a dark side, but if you don’t encounter difficulty, you don’t usually know this about yourself. People who lack compassion, in my experience, either forget that they have a dark side, or they are living from this dark side and can’t even begin to see the light that would be possible if they went into therapy, exercised and, perhaps, humbled themselves to the Lord.
Are you willing to be mentored by experienced Christians? Are you willing to share your weaknesses and be held accountable by peers in the faith? Are you willing to face your dark side?
Often, we try to avoid making people think poorly of us. But what if we’ve already started to slide in that direction?
If we think people think poorly of us, then typically we will either be defiant and consider ourselves “oppressed” (even if we’re the ones being problematic), or… we may become the “bad” person people think we are. We will act out their expectations of us because we see ourselves only how they see us. This is very true if we don’t have a strong sense of self. Which is why, if you’re really struggling, it is important to surround yourself with loving, non-judgmental people.
Another thing can happen: we sometimes imagine that others think poorly of us when really they’ve already moved on! Don’t forget that this might also be the case!
My neighbor, when I was telling her I was starting this blog, told me to put a list of people’s names whose opinion actually matters to me because it was a given that some people would probably judge me and write me off and I needed to have that list ready so I could keep my priorities straight and my ministry active in the face of rejection. Man am I glad I did that! This way I can follow God’s guidance rather than my desire for approval. This way I can write with raw honesty and minister from pain, but also from the perspective of my recovery.
Christian faith illumines our way out like nothing else does:
If we continue to look outside of ourselves for approval and find rejection, we despair without Christ who reminds us that we are strongest when we learn from our weaknesses and lean on him. We must ask Christ to give us our identity and not our job; our goodness to our fellow humans in spite their rejection of us, and not our popularity.
We must stop looking horizontally, which means focusing on the people around us who we imagine judging us, and instead look vertically, upward to God and then, through him, go on to the work that we are called to do. I think a lot of school and workplace shootings happen when people look horizontally and obsess over where they stand in relationship to society rather than upward to their relationship to themselves, their God, and their consciences. We are to dig down deeper into God in our peril and forget the ways of the world, our reputations and what the world thinks of us. And act justly even, actually especially, when people expect otherwise.
This does not work if we become reckless with our relationships and with the feelings of others or if we simply say, “The world has rejected me, and they rejected Christ. Therefore, I am like Christ and am Christian. ”
Just because you’re rejected doesn’t make you like Christ. Being harmless in the face of oppression, rejection and harm posed by others, even our very friends, makes us like Christ.
We must genuinely seek to make ourselves a living sacrifice through studying our Bible, going to church, and reflecting about how we can improve and taking appropriate action to get there. And by praying for divine aid.
St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
May it be so. Amen.