I am not an airplane pilot. However, from my travel experiences, I observed that it is important for the pilots to get the airplane to go up to a specific height (depending on its particular class) in order not to be disturbed by the lower, everchanging air currents. Furthermore, each aircraft is guided and given a specific cruise altitude by the air controller on the ground to avoid having too many congestions on the shared spaces and air paths. By flying higher than the regular height of typical jetstreams or air currents, the aircraft is able to be more stable and easier to handle without the foreseen turbulences of lower, unstable currents. Perhaps an airplane pilot will be able to explain this in a better way with more detailed information; however, this is what I can see and comprehend with my feeble mind as a passenger.
In a similar way, we are also called to avoid extremes in our daily interactions as well. In Catholic spirituality, many saints affirmed the necessity to avoid polarities in order to live with moderation. In my own pastoral ministry, I have seen too many people just living life from one crisis to the next, from one activity to the next, from one extreme to the next. That is not a healthy way to live life because one is forever in the reactionary mode, restless, angry, frustrated, resentful, or burnt out. While I understand that there are times of crisis or when one is being tested and tried; however, it is also important for one to not be occupied or operate in a constant crisis mode. None of us should ever let our normal state of mind or mode of operation be set in any fixed extremity; else, we will become dramatic, excessive, or resentful, pushing people away and forever be angry at others and at ourselves. We are called to avoid the extremities as to discover and appreciate beauties all around us. We are called to avoid polarities in order to see and embrace the wonderful mysteries hidden in our very normal day and life interactions.
Some of these extreme swings are very normal for many; however, they are not healthy and life-giving to the soul. Therefore, it is important to understand and avoid them because they do hurt our relationship with one another as well. I can go on with the list, but I would just like to keep it to three for this reflection. Please feel free to take some time to reflect and see for yourself what exist in your own life that could affect your personal self-worth, as well as destroy important relationships that are life-giving in your very own life.
The first set of extremes that I often see in people who are constantly living in the polarities either come in the form of allowing one’s self to always be reactionary or to be locked in isolation. There is a difference between responding to something with discernment, calmness, and peace instead of simply being reactionary with immediate, sentimental, or emotional stirrups and desires. It requires us to take the time to pray about the situation or person(s) that is involved as to judge and discern all things according to the standards of Christ, especially as to seek and speak the truth in charity. Too oftentimes in our own rash reactionary ways, we had pushed people away without knowing the facts about the situation. It is so easy to react and make a rushed decision that is often imprudent and end up being hurtful, prideful, or self-centered in the process. When we react, we often push people farther away because we have not taken the time to pray with the Lord and to respond with truth in charity, prudence, mercy, and compassion. When we live in a reactionary way, it is so easy to isolate ourselves from others because we become hard to bear. We push people away intentionally and unintentionally when we become inconsiderate, irritated, and feel like no one is meeting our standards or can do anything to make us happy. Isolation leads to depression and/or self-pity because we are unhappy with others — even our very self — because we cannot appreciate the people around us, their worth and contribution, especially the small blessings and moments of joys in life.
The second common set of extremes is busyness and self-pity. We Americans like to keep ourselves too busy. We like to go from one thing to the next, filling our schedule and agenda with things to do. We are scared of not doing something, afraid of the silence and its uncomfortable invitation for something deep. It is so hard for us to be by ourselves, especially in silence and allowing ourselves to have the time to rest and reflect on what is important. We turn on the television, internet, music, or find something to occupy our time because we are so scared to be alone and not doing something. We are afraid of the awkwardness of silence as if we feel like unproductive or useless when we do not have something to do or busy ourselves. We get the false temptation to think that we are worth loving and good when we are productive and busy. We feel like we are accepted when we are in need or able to do something. We had defined ourselves and our existence with busy works and constant doing of something. Yet, this makes us burn out, tired, and reactive at times because we think we need to keep “giving” and doing things in order to be loved or feel needed. Hence, when one is tired, burnt out, facing limitations or failures, or does not feel needed, it is easy to swing to the other extreme of self-pity. It is so easy for us to mope, and at times loath ourselves, when we feel like we cannot do something well, be someone great or feel needed. It is hard because we have often made and define our self-worth based on how effective or productive we are, thus losing sight of the divine image and likeness that God has given us. When we lose sight of our true dignity, we lose respect for what is truly life-giving and beautiful when we are able to simply give ourselves as gifts without having to always feel needed, productive, or effective. We become pitiful when we look at ourselves as useless, unimportant, and not worthy to be loved when we have tried too hard to be successful and accepted through the worldly and humanistic standards of utilitarianism.
The third set of extremes that I often see in many people is of anger and self-loath. It is often the combination of the last two previous sets of extremes. It is easy for us to be angry when we allow ourselves to always be reactionary to what is going on, not able to slow down, take a step back, understand, and understand what is going on. It easy to be wrapped in constant anger when we only see problems, moving from one crisis to the next, which causes us to lose peace and small moments of joy. When we can no longer see life as worth living, filled with many wonders and awes, we are left with little to nothing and it is easy to get stuck with just busyness, cynicism, and sentimental anger of the world. Resentment and hatred of others will develop because we choose to see how unfair, unfortunate, pitiful, or unlucky we are because we do not get what we think we deserved. This anger can make us hate or loathe ourselves even more as if we are nothing and that life is not worth living. This anger and self-hatred make us lose all hope and joy, hence easy to lock us in our self-created version of hell, depressing and full of negativity. In our very self-created hell, we loathe everyone else and tend to make others’ lives miserable (intentionally or unintentionally) because we hate our lives and ourselves. We are like walking dark holes that suck the joy out of everyone and everything around us. In all honesty, we have seen people like that or had experienced it ourselves. This is not life nor reality itself! Life is much more than whatever we have created for ourselves in our own personal expectations, demands, or desires, thinking that things have to be this or that way, to be right, to make us happy, or for us feel needed in order to be the reality.
We have to rise above these changing matters, reactive, self-centered, or negative currents in order to see ourselves as we are in the eyes of God. We have to lift up our hearts so that it rises above the turbulent airs in order to find the transcendental tranquility and peace as to rest and be lifted up by His loving embrace. Just like airplanes that use less fuel and energy when they fly above the changing currents and airstreams, we find rest and save more energy when we are focused, embraced, and energized by His loving grace. Even though there will be times that we have to descend, and there will be here and there rough patches of air, we know how to rise above, rest, and allow ourselves to find its tranquility in God through prayers. This is very important! If we never know how to lift up our hearts and rest in Him, we will forever be restless, busybodies, angry, reactive, isolating, pitying, or loathing ourselves when things get rough. If we never know where is our meeting ground with the Lord, we will never find or have a place to return or rise above the things of this world to be embraced and loved by Him.
It is needed and so important that we as people of faith to know how to rise above the apparent pressures, changing extremes, and fluctuating polarities as to be moderate, mindful, patient, prudent, reflective, prayerful, peaceful, and joyful in the Lord. Our faith invites and teaches us to avoid the extremes, and through reflective moderation and balancing of whatever is going on, by rising above what is apparent and reactionary, we can seek the balance to appreciate beauties all around us. When we find that spiritual resting place and equilibrium, we learn to avoid polarities in order to see and embrace the wonderful mysteries hidden in our very normal day and life interactions. God and His grace are always present, we just need to take the time and stillness of heart to seek, understand, and see His loving presence in our very everyday life and interactions. This is the beauty of our faith because we are shown how loved we are and how much God wants to guide us with His loving grace. May we allow Him to do that by simply opening our hearts, trust, and permit Him to take over our everything in saying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”