We have largely been taught to fear our thoughts and emotions. We think: “Oh no! I am thinking a lustful thought” or “Oh no! I am feeling sad or angry”. Out of fear we panic or chastise ourselves for allowing this catastrophe; we may also pretend like we are not thinking and feeling these things at all or we give into them in private, acting as if everything is fine in public. None of these seem like very helpful steps.
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Richard Rohr in his book Just This encourages us this way:
Listen honestly to yourself. Listen to whatever thought or feeling arises. Listen long enough to ask, “Why am I thinking this?” “What is this saying about me that I need to entertain this negative, accusatory or lustful thought?” You don’t have to hate yourself or condemn yourself for a thought or feeling, but you do have to let it yield its wisdom.
Wow. What if we could, instead of judging a thought or feeling as good or bad right away, be curious. One of our deepest needs as a human being is to be heard. When we instantly judge and react to our own thoughts and feelings we are not giving our inner world a voice. It is honoring to ask the questions that Richard Rohr describes above.
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When we see them for what they are, we can own our thoughts and emotions instead of allowing them to own us. We have the freedom to not be perfect, if only a little embarrassed, that we sometimes have thoughts and feelings that oppose our good nature… but God already knows. We can bring these thoughts and feelings before God and work through them with HIm. Asking, “What is this about Jesus?” The point is not to reinforce the false glitter on our exterior but the deep reality of transformation in our interior.
Richard Rohr follows up by saying:
If you can allow your thoughts and feelings to pass through you neither clinging to them nor opposing them-and without ever expecting perfect success-I promise that you will come to a deeper, wider, and wiser place. Believe it or not, even your ability to fully succeed [or not] is, in itself, another wonderful lesson.