Studies on American consumerism and happiness reveal the happiness we gain from buying stuff is short lived. No sooner have we acquired stuff than our attention turns to new stuff. By contrast, spending on experience–a gathering of friends or an act of kindness–has a longer lasting effect because we can remember the experience and feel happy all over again.
The converse is also true. Remembering can hurt. Shining a flashlight on ourselves and seeing the wrong turns we have made can be painful. Painful aspects of introspection arise from remembering upsetting events, facing the consequences of our choices, and allowing ourselves to experience compassion for those who were hurt. If you find yourself approaching introspection with some foreboding for any of these reasons, don’t shoulder it alone. Reach for hope in companions.
“Con dos, no peso un muerto,” is a Spanish expression that means, “With two, even death isn’t heavy.” Scripture offers companions.
Spend some time in Isaiah 53. Isaiah here foretells of one to whom the Lord is revealed but who goes without any form of majesty. He endures astonishing rejection and injustice. While Jews see a suffering servant representative of the house of Israel in this prophesy, Christians see Jesus (an interpretation that does not agree with the context of the preceding songs of Isaiah but is suggested in the gospel of Luke nonetheless). Both interpretations find a fellow sufferer. The injustice borne by Jews through history may put one’s own suffering into sharp relief. If we can appreciate the juxtaposition of extremes that the person of Jesus embodied—champion of justice treated unjustly, condemned by those he came to save, son of all-powerful God born powerless—we find someone well acquainted with pain.
The Psalter is a fantastic companion for walking through painful memories. This book of poetry offers words to capture the full range of human emotion and experience. You will have no difficulty finding verses that voice your ill-will for the one who wronged you. My personal favorite is Psalm 63. Here is the ending:
9 But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword,
they shall be food for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Visualizing a group of jackals sitting around, gnawing on a pile of my tormentor’s bones with little teeth marks in them was a salve to my wounds during a painful time. When you find a Psalm that gives voice to your emotion, pray it with vigor. The honest exhortation to God will give you some release.
Join the conversation. Have you found spiritual companions in unlikely places?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.