A lot of people tell me how they are very frustrated with their spouses, colleagues, family members, or people who are in their lives. Sometimes, we can even sense the tensions that can cut paper. However, most of the time, the tensions are very subtle and hidden, but they are still there. Tensions are present when a relationship is broken or when hurt exists. They can easily be manifested as negative (raw) emotions and energies as a way to react to the hurt. They can be projected to others as a way to escape the pressure from the situation. They can be transferred to others, as if it is their problem instead of ours, as a way to ignore what is really going on. Those are just some of the different ways for us to consciously or subconsciously react to pressures and tensions. Instead of recluding to the typical reactions, there are creative, holistic, and transformative ways for us to use the tensions that are there and transform them into a non-condemnatory, nondestructive, and life-giving way.
First, we have to remember that St. Paul taught us not to overcome evil with evil but with good. (cf. Romans 12:21) This is hard, yet this is the way of the saints and of the Lord Himself. He chose the Way of the Cross even though He could have chosen other alternatives in His omnipotence — or to simply walk away. He could have chosen to “return the favor” by asking the host of angels to destroy His persecutors and put down those who wanted Him dead. He could have chosen another easier route with a quick decision of His all-powerful will. Yet, He chose to embrace the hurts, the sufferings, and the wrong-doings. He chose to allow the evil given and impose upon Him. He embraced the Cross, an instrument of shame and immense suffering — one that should be avoided by any sensible person –for the love of us. Because of what He had done, choosing the impossible and unthinkable, we can relate and know that we have the Savior who understands what it means to be hurt, betrayed, and suffered evil by others for the sake of love.
The Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, showed His wounds to His own disciples who abandoned Him after His resurrection. Instead of punishing them for their cowardice and unbeliefs, He chose to open their eyes using His own wounded self as the clear example of embracing the hurts, failures, and betrayals given by others and transform them into the life-giving manifestation of love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. The Lord taught us to be who we really are, to truly be humans with a heart, and to genuinely be children of God by embracing what it means to be life-giving. He taught us how to respond to the evil given and transform the tensions from something destructive into a deep sense of understanding of what it means to love in the midst of many failures and imperfections. Yes, we all have doubts! We all ask why things were permitted or allowed to happen the ways they did. We all questioned God‘s goodness or timing from time to time. Yet, all these present conditions and their existing tensions could be invitations for greater understanding of God‘s own love in the eternal and everlasting scheme.
Instead of being stuck in the negative or destructive questionings, complainings, and doubts of “Why aren’t things supposed to be (like this or that)? Why can’t you change?” or the likes, we can choose to find new ways to properly embrace, communicate, and seek small moments of joy in life. Oftentimes, we allow the dark clouds to impose the dark reality all around us without seeking other things that have life all around us. Too many times, we allow the people who negatively influence or the things that do not go our ways to blind us from the bigger reality instead of simply seeing that they are only PARTS of our life instead of all of it. First, no one has the power to steal away our joy and manipulate us into thinking that we are something different than what God has given and told us. They do not have that power if we do not give them that power! Second, we have to be careful to let those people or things envelop all of us and consume everything that we have. Life is actually bigger and grander than those matters and people if we just widen our vision a little bit. Third, we tend to choose to focus on the problems and expect God or others to come through in a majestic way, but beautiful blessings and miracles and their moments of joy are already given, present, and can be found at any given time if we allow ourselves to recognize and look for them.
Those foundational principles are very important and crucial as we embrace, recognize, and try to understand the grander scheme and real objectivity of reality. They allow us to use the existing — oftentimes, out of our control — tensions and to find creative, positive solutions or outlets to respond to them. By stepping out of the usual reactions, we can create or find positive, faith-filled, creative opportunities. By seeing things and people in a bigger light and reality than what should be done according to us and our standards, we could find ways to seek help, invite others, and seek collaborations in a more gentle, respectful, and faith-centered way. By widening our vision instead of expecting people to conform, see, or fit our understanding, we could lessen the dependency on things and people to permit a providential, greater possibility or opportunity than what we can comprehend at the moment.
A wise priest once told me, “In life, especially with relationships, there will always be hurts because we are humans. We can choose retribution or to walk away when it hurts or we can choose to embrace the Cross in the love of the other person. In all things, I believe that God asks us, ‘I love you! Do you love me? How about those who bear my image and likeness as well?’ Those moments are hard, yet this is the difference between love and like, and it is a personal choice.” Truly, it is very hard to love, especially when the other person is not likable at the moment. Yet, to love is a personal, faith, and caring choice even when we cannot feel it. It perhaps begins with the acceptance that we cannot change the other side, but we can choose to let go of our over-expectations of the person or situation. Too many times, we (hopelessly) are guilty of holding on to the past, the hurt, or the “shadow” of what the person had done to us and expect him or her to change in order to reconcile or make things better. Maybe the other person cannot change, is not capable of change, or he or she cannot recognize what needs to be done because of his or her brokenness?!? We can stay at the same place to demand change from the other side, that he or she becomes what we expect him or her to be in order to make it right, or we can choose to accept the situation, its irreconcilable possibility, and find an alternative to respond to it. We can let the tensions hurt us and lock us in our own created reactionary circles of hell (for ourselves and others around us) or we can find opportunities to elevate, transform, and creatively seek the bigger understanding of reality as it is instead of what it needs, should, could, or would have been.
The Lord taught us to be who we really are, truly be humans with a loving heart, and to be children of God by embracing what it means to truly be life-giving. He taught us how to respond to the evil given and transform the tension from something destructive into a deep sense of understanding of what it means to love in the midst of many failures and imperfections. If we have experienced and received His compassion and mercy toward us, let us in turn practice and share them with those who are around us. If we have been hard to love and challenging to the Lord by our own ignorance and hardheadedness — yet He still patiently and lovingly taught us with mercy, we should also do the same to those who are challenging and hard to love as well. What has been given and received needs to be shared and practiced! Therefore, let us not be afraid or held back from being changed by love, for love, and with love for one another from the Lord.