Elizabeth Scalia steps up to the plate, adjusts her cap, raises her Louisville Slugger, and slams one out of the park. This is a message we need right now:
When we reach the point where God seems worth hating, we have also, unavoidably, entered into self-hatred. We can’t help it; we are fallen, and the same instincts to idolatry that cause us to make godlings of the things and circumstances and people that we love are also at work when everything becomes about our hatred and our hurts and where we believe our darker feelings may be safely expressed or projected.
How do we protect ourselves from falling into this accidental deterioration of our spiritual and emotional health? Clearly, we cannot erase memory, and even if we could, the price would be enormous—it would entail a shutting-down that fragments wholeness and seeks to deny much of what has helped to make us who we are—in our weaknesses, yes, but also in our strengths.
Train the mind toward optimism
To choose to think the best of a circumstance or of a person is no frivolous thing. To be sure, an outlook so sunny that it blinds one to real possibilities of harm or leads to reckless behavior is unbalanced foolishness. Determined optimism, however—the intent to seek out what is good rather than focus on the bad—has an element of subversion to it; it willfully admits into one’s thinking a level of vulnerability that can open us up to charges of naïveté and (even worse) of being out-of-touch with the prevailing winds—a deplorable weakness in our cynical age.
For some, that can seem downright dangerous.
It’s a danger worth dancing with, though, particularly if it leads us away from the shadowlands of despair.
So what helps to train the mind, steady the heart, and ground the soul? Psalmody. A regular praying of the Psalms, every day, helps to form the hopeful mind. It does that by exposing to us the simple fact that no matter how unique we believe our situation to be or how profoundly we are feeling something, the situation has happened before; those feelings have been felt before. The Psalms are the perfect reflection of the human condition; nothing works so potently to counteract self-absorption and bring buoyancy to hope than the realization that this song:
I have become like a pelican in the wilderness,
like an owl in desolate places.
I lie awake and I moan
like some lonely bird on a roof (Ps. 102:7-8),
Immediately gives way to this one:
It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion,
who fills your life with good things,
renewing your youth like an eagle’s. (Ps. 103:3-5)
There’s much more, and some sage advice that should lift your heart. Read it all.