Thursday, March 5, 2009

The self-absorbed penitent

Continuing the theme of the last couple of days ... it occurred to me this morning that too much focus on one's own flaws -- too much penitence -- can actually be anti-Christian. Too much emphasis on getting my own house in order can keep me from opening it in hospitality. It's as if I think, I'm such a mess myself, who am I to think I have anything to offer others? I think I have to be a saint before I can be an inspiration or a comfort to someone else who is in trouble. So I work on myself, but I don't give, I don't share, I don't love.....

Bringing me back to the 12th step -- maybe I am finally understanding it for the first time. (After all these years!). Bill Wilson didn't help Dr. Bob get sober because he was living solidly in the 11th step, he helped him because he reached out of his own vulnerability. And although God got him sane, in order to stay sane he had to turn to other suffering people, it wasn't enough to just keep turning to God. And of course, he never got totally sane; he, and Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Saint Benedict of Nursia, remained flawed until the day they died, but they didn't let consciousness of their need for God's grace overwhelm consciousness of their brothers' and sisters' need for love.

I've always shaken my head at those many women who are so insecure about their physical appearance that they don't actually pay attention to their date -- they think it's the extra pounds or the zit on their nose or the bad hair day that's turning men off, when really it's the self-absorption. Don't you remember, the popular girls in grade school weren't necessarily pretty? In my school, at least, some of them had big noses or pudgy builds -- even then it was clear that what made them attractive was their self-confidence. I have always understood that where appearance is concerned, and I feel very attractive even though I'm 40 lbs overweight, have bad posture, and dress ... indifferently. I don't wear makeup, I don't color my grey hair. But I'm attractive anyway, because I believe I am, so I pay attention to my companions instead of obsessing over my own physical flaws. Being genuinely interested in people is attractive! Like Michelle Obama ... she's not a fashion icon because she dresses especially well, she's not gorgeous, although she's very fit she has bad posture, a flat chest in proportion to her hips, kind of a jutting jawline .... But she looks great because she carries herself with confidence and warmth. The clothes don't look good, SHE makes them look good. She'd look fabulous in a potato sack.

But I do obsess over my "moral" flaws, my character weaknesses. I do let them become a barrier between me and others. I've gotten better about having friends over even though I'm not a great housekeeper. I accept that my garden will be overrun with weeds before the end of the season, that doesn't make it a failure. I need to take more steps in this direction, cover up the moral "mirrors", and focus more on my friends and neighbors. Keep the examination of conscience for the minutes before Compline (or for this journalling time), and spend more time listening and embracing the people around me, instead.

Blessed be God forever.
(PS, isn't that a funny expression? I mean, God is the one who does the blessing, right? I guess I should say "thanks be to God forever", instead, LOL) Thanks be to God!


  1. Thanks be to God for people like Regina Terrae - who by humbly sharing their own experience help to enlighten others!

    You have a beautiful heart, Regina!

  2. Thank you, Michael! Nice to know someone's reading, and finding some merit in my ramblings! (Not just a random someone, either -- that's Michael's lovely blog I have linked to over on the right: Love to Spare)

    Blessings to you