Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

The struggle

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ocean-storm-webI suppose one of my greatest struggles is to free myself from what others think or feel about me. This has been something that I have worked with from childhood and am not sure actually how much progress I have made in this matter. Like most people, I would like to be understood, my intentions known, and not to be second guessed. I often find myself dealing with deep anger when I feel that I am being misjudged, for again justice is something that we would all like to receive. Emotions can be so powerful that the rational process can be overwhelmed and in the end anger and bitterness can be the fruit. Strong emotions overly focus, making a point view infallible, not allowing other ways of seeing a situation in. In the end any kind of communication can be made impossible if some degree of listening cannot be achieved on both sides.

I have been on both sides of the above equation. The one going into attack mode, when I perceive something being done that I think is unfair, or unjust. I see red, my defenses for the one I think being treated unfairly come into play big time and I can do or say things I regret later. Over the years I have learned to try to listen to the other side, with greater or lesser success, and more times than not balance is restored; though not always of course. Usually my anger comes from not knowing the whole situation, hearing only one side of it, and to put it bluntly, my authority issues are deep and enduring; at times causing grief to those who are my superiors.

When I am on the receiving end, when anger is directed at me for some decision I have made, I have found something that helps me to understand the other better. I simply realize that I have done the same thing in the past, and try to see how I would want to be treated in this situation. I don’t always succeed of course, but it does help. All the judgments I tend to direct toward those who are in conflict with me, are things that I do myself. I can jump to conclusions before I have all the facts. There have been times when I have been grossly unfair to those in authority because of my own need to take care and defend others; a cycle that I still can get me into.

It is hard to be objective. Well it may be impossible, but that does not mean that liberates me from the intent to at least try, when I am on either end of the equation. I know however that there will be times when perhaps few understand the why of my decisions, and that even after listening to their objections; I will have to stay on track, and try not to be sucked into angry exchanges. Something very difficult for me, for I have more fire in me than water I think. I have to realize that when others make choices, I have to accept the fact that I will not always understand either. There are some human situations in which no agreement can be reached.

Storms pass, the waves become placid, and life goes on. Freedom from me trying to control the world, and from allowing what others might think to control me, is a tight rope that perhaps I will walk for the rest of my days; no wonder I am tired much of the time. For to worry over much about that will prevent me from making needed decisions, that if not made, can cause greater chaos down the road. When in the position of leadership, no matter how small, one has to be able to stand up and take the brunt of what one decides to do. Not to do so, is to let down those under ones charge, and in the end to merely take care of ones emotional fears and needs.. If that can' t be done, doing what is necessary; then responsibility for others should not be taken. Having authority over others has heavy responsibilities.

Fear is a terrible emotion to give into, for little by little it takes away the ability to do what is right, causing the world to become smaller and smaller; corners are a very tight place to maneuver from. For in the end, not to do the necessary, will only make matters worse. It is short sighted and at times, it is the innocent who suffer the most. At least from my experience, for others this may not be so. Fear for me is a challenge to step up, go over the line, stretch, and in the end, see that one comes out all right. If not, well that is ok also. Life can seem to be a crap shoot at times, but it only seems that way.

I have a very long way to go in this and may never get to the point of equanimity in this matter and perhaps I shouldn’t. For to lose self doubt should also be something to be avoided, for at times I will have to admit that I may be mistaken and in fact the reactions of others justified. I wish life was simpler, that communication was easy, that there was no gossip, that life is always fair and that all my decisions will always be right on target; but it is not that way. There is a lot of chaos, the best that one can do, is to do ones best, and move on from there. Also to understand that misunderstandings are the norm not the exception.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery

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