🎋 Spiritual Integrity 🎋
“Spiritual secrecy is the protector of spiritual integrity.” That quote is from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. He believed that to maintain our spiritual integrity, we must be careful about what we share with others, arguing that we can become vulnerable to criticism and judgment if we reveal too much about our spiritual journey. He thinks this can lead us to compromise our beliefs and practices and ultimately damage our spiritual life.
In a world where social media and the internet have made it easier to share our thoughts and feelings with others, it is more important than ever to be mindful of what we share. I’m likely sharing too much. According to Merton, when we share our spiritual experiences with others, we open ourselves to their interpretations and judgments. I have never had that experience, but I am more likely to share my spiritual journey with people I know and trust.
Merton has overreacted and is unwilling or unable to risk sharing a spiritual belief that others may disagree with. I have friends that are atheists, and I never discuss religion with them. I am a Methodist, and I have wonderful Baptist friends. The only time my spiritual integrity is at risk is when I choose to sin, which I seldom do (I’m hoping that doesn’t include running red lights 😊). I can’t entirely agree with him when he says, “Spiritual secrecy is the protector of spiritual integrity.” I believe we all have secrets in life, but I don’t think our spirituality should be a secret; at least, that is the teaching in my church. We are told to go forth and spread the word. I’m just the opposite of Merton., I feel guilty for not sharing my religious views. Vincent Van Gogh said, “I would rather die of passion than boredom.” Life would be rather boring if we failed to share our views and experiences in life. Often, I see people with T-shirts that describe a religious belief or biblical verse, i.e., “Jesus Died for Our Sins”. That is not how I choose to proclaim my faith, but it would not be something I would avoid if my church asked me to do so.
Secrecy can be both protective and harmful. Judas kept a secret that made him infamous, and his name has become synonymous with traitor. His secret may have saved his life, but it cost him his integrity.
💫 I read this quote the other day, and it gave me pause: “If you are lonely when you are alone, then you are in bad company.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
At first, it made me smile, then slowly, the smile disappeared, and some deep soul-searching began. Am I lonely when I’m alone, or is there a need to always have someone nearby? Am I capable of entertaining myself? The answers to those questions should have been clear, but they weren’t. If my wife is gone for several hours, I’m OK with being alone, but what if she were gone for days, even weeks? Would I feel lonely? I remember when her father died in 2001, and she made monthly trips to New York to be with her mother for a week. How did I feel then? Was I lonely? And the answer is that I definitely remember feeling lonely and eager for her return. Does that mean that I’m lousy company? I don’t think so. I know people living alone daily, and I’ll confidently say they don’t feel like poor company. Humans are social creatures and need interaction with others. Still, most of us only need someone around a few minutes of the day.
After my first wife and I split up, I lived alone for several years and never felt lonely. I wasn’t happy, but I stayed busy, exercised often, and visited family and friends to ward off boredom. I often talk to myself when I’m alone, and I have never thought of my life as boring or lonely. Could that change? You Betcha, but I hope not, at least anytime soon 😊.
💫 This story will touch your heart: A four-year-old child’s next-door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
There have been times in my life when all I needed was someone to help me cry. At my age, so many important people have passed away, and mostly, I have cried alone, ashamed to have others see me, a grown man, crying. My father instilled that in me; maybe his father passed it on to him. I never remember seeing my dad or his father cry. Perhaps we believe that crying should be a private act, but then again, maybe we require support from others during our moments of grief. I know I tried desperately to comfort my two adult children when their mother passed away in 2014. At their request, I sat in the hospital room with her until she took her last breath. Neither of them could endure being there with her at the end, and they didn’t want her to die alone.
We know when death is near, lurking around the corner, waiting to reach out and snatch someone we love or care deeply about. But sometimes, it is totally unexpected, and it hurts even worse. I lost my mother and my good friend Jerry that way. When you don’t have time to prepare yourself for the inevitable, throw the shield up that only allows so much grief to enter; the pain of losing someone is so much worse. That’s when I need to share my grief, to unload some of the desperation I feel from such a personal loss.
I have learned to deal with loss, but have never avoided the grief of losing someone I love. If they are watching, I want them to see how much I miss them, and the only way I see that can be done is to shed some tears; the more, the better. Thomas Wolfe has a unique thought in his book, “You Can’t Go Home Again”: “Something has spoken to me in the night…and told me I shall die. I know not where. Saying: Death is to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; To lose the life you have for the greater life; to leave the friends you loved for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”
I need to give that quote some thought. I have never thought about death in that way. I have had a near death experience, so I know what it looks like. Oddly, dying did not scare me, but I did not want to leave. Thankfully, I did not have to. That was nine years ago (2014). I have never forgotten the instant I realized my life was ending. Thanks to a young schoolteacher (Cindy) from Louisiana, I am still alive today. She currently lives in Las Vegas near her children, and we correspond almost weekly. I imagine that when she gets up to Heaven and St. Peter asks her, “Why do you think you deserve to enter?” She will respond, “well, I saved the life of one of Jesus’s followers!” I’m sure she deserves to be there for many other reasons, but this one has to be pretty big 😊. I hope you enjoyed this missive. Leave a comment if you have the time…Tommy.