Betty Duffy


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Links worthy of your time

Trish, at Jalapeno Peppers, has written another beautiful post about discerning who God wants you to be.

As you go through life, there are roles you play, projects you undertake, dreams you pursue that shape who you are becoming as a person, and that also allow the real "you" to emerge.

I used to think about personal development in terms of building virtue and acquiring skills, but there is something so pragmatic and one-dimensional about that approach. I can't knock sainthood, but I don't think it's just about "becoming holy." I am sure there are very holy people who are perfect bores, or who haven't a shred of critical thinking ability, who spend their life simply trying to be "correct." I want to say, "Yadda yadda yadda... what else have you got? Who else are you? What else has life taught you lately? Where are you going? And what else do you have to say besides the usual, predictable things? Do you have a real opinion of your own?"

There is something else that is much more attractive to me, and I think it's the uniqueness of a personality that is awake and eager to learn, eager to live. It's that sense of being on a journey and of enjoying every second of the ride. Not stagnating, not hiding behind a title or a label or some other static entity. Growing. Really living.

I love this post, because when I think about the "personality of Christ" it always seems, in scripture, intentionally vague--perhaps so that any personality can aspire to his virtues without diminishing the unique God-given characteristics that individuate us, one from another.

Also, Darwin unpacks the recent Wall Street Journal feature: "My Fertility Crisis" about a woman in her early forties, attempting to conceive by IVF. He deftly notes, that if you want a certain kind of life (ie. one with children in it) it doesn't do to build your life around a different set of goals.

The house or office you are sitting in was built according to a plan and a purpose, a purpose from which it is now only able to deviate to a limited extent. My house cannot suddenly become an office tower, though it has an office in it. My office building would make a very poor house. But they are built knowingly, according to a plan. And yet, our lives seem often constructed to a purpose without the architect knowing that he is in constructing something with walls and doors -- an edifice which will suit some ends well, and other poorly. Individual choices pile up unto some particular type of life, and once that life is built people sometimes find it is not, in fact, the kind of structure they want to live in, and yet tearing it down and rebuilding in some other way is difficult. Some people tear things down and remake them -- going through the chaos that is some sort of conversion of life or belief. Others attempt to repurpose the structure they have have built without making changes -- like trying to build a cozy country kitchen in an office cube.


Julia said...

I'm fond of saying that my goal in life is to be as Julia as God created me to be.

Nice piece.

Trish Bailey de Arceo said...

Thank you, Betty!

Carla Dobs said...

I disagree with Trish...

Very holy people (ie saints), can never, by definition be boring and stagnant. Because, by definition, they are constantly striving on this earth to be more and more lie Christ...a DYNAMIC process that is never that requires constant re-evaluation growth and change...true saints have a vitality that is attractive and a joy that is contagious...

Trish may be describing "pious" rather than "holy" people...I know lots of "stick in the mud" pious faithful...


Trish Bailey de Arceo said...

Carla, you are right! True holiness is always dynamic and attractive. In retrospect, I guess my issue was not so much with holiness or even piety as with a particular conception of holiness that squashes individuality and obliges people to conform to a very detailed image of "the ideal woman"-- all in the name of the will of God. In this conception of holiness, respect for individual freedom and uniqueness was not as respected as it should be. In that sense, it was a distortion of Catholic teaching.

I really believe that holiness is primarily the work of God in man. We freely cooperate with grace, but we are not the architects of our own holiness, nor do I think we should pursue it as an end in itself. I think, rather, we should make it our goal to love God and others and do what God wants of us with a generous and willing heart-- and holiness will be the result of that outpouring of love and obedience. I know that the Gospel says "Be perfect as my Father is perfect" but I think that the call to holiness can sometimes become twisted by a kind of spiritual vanity that seeks self-perfection as an end in itself.

So the problem is not holiness, which is a glorious good for the Church and for all humanity. The problem is how--in my experience, which is particular--the pursuit of holiness can become marred by a fear of personal freedom, a lack of respect for individual uniqueness, and a spiritual vanity that makes the whole project too self-regarding and even narcissistic.

Hope that makes sense! There is some context in the background...