A few years back, I stumbled upon a Netflix series, Mindhunter. It retells the stories of two FBI agents and a psychologist trying to understand and comprehend the different interior logics of psychopaths and motives of serial killers. To be honest, this series was eye opening for me because it allowed me to see the horrendous crimes that these messed up people were doing to their victims, while at the same time, able to justify whatever they were doing in a nonchalant way. Even though I was saddened and sick at times, I also cannot help but feel pity and compassion for them as a priest. It seemed hard at first, but… As it was revealed, these psychopaths and serial killers all came from messed-up or dysfunctional family of origin, abused when they were young, or had some types of traumatic events that turned them into who they were. The sad thing was that none of them ever sought help! They all thought that they were fine because they could handle things themselves, smarter or better than everyone else, outplay the system, or could fake themselves into an image that was acceptable for others while living a double life of viciousness.
I have learned that these people, even though they committed some of the most unimaginable and horrendous crimes in our nation or world’s histories, they were also some of the most broken people. Granted that they should never be living unchecked with the rest of society and needed a lot of help, these people were also in need of forgiveness and compassion. Even though they do not understand what having mercy or compassion meant at times, they were living an unfortunate life filled with many past hurts that they sometimes do not even know or understand the consequences upon the actions that affected them and their victims. Instead of willing to care and love others, there was a desire in them to hurt others in order to silence the noises and signs of brokenness deep from within. Instead of willing to accept that they were not well and hurt, they rather hurt others in order to appease, distract, and deter their thought process from the truth. When serial killers or harmful psychopaths were interviewed and asked why they did the crimes, they just nonchalantly told people what happened and why they did the deeds without feeling any remorse for what was inflicted upon others. We can sit here any talk much about why and psychoanalyze each person but that will not prove anything. Many articles were had been written and studied about them; yet, the common denominator continues to show that their affective, emotional, and psychological state was affected, impeded, or malfunctioned by their past traumas. Something or someone had hurt them so much, and they did not get the affection, proper guidance, compassion, mercy, or love that they needed so they, in turn, hurt others because they did not know how to stop.
As a priest, I can see the common underlying failure and reason why people become hurt, resentful, vicious, someone who is not themselves, or contrary to what God calls them to be simply because they never asked for help! Asking for help… those are definitely three words that are hard to grasp and put into practice. As human beings, we do have a big problem, struggling to reveal, manifest, and make ourselves genuine, transparent, and real. In particular, the Devil and our ego want to hide the secrets away from others because we are scared that they will see us as we truly are or use our weaknesses against us. We are scared of losing control and not being the center, mover, and shaker of our own reality and existence in whatever image that we would like to be. We often end up lying to our very self and others, and even God in conversation, too, because we like to be seen in another light than who we truly are. Yet, the greatest freedom is simply found in being honest and genuine to ourselves, transparent and humble in front of our Creator in order to accept who we are in prayer, self-reflection, contemplation, and discernment. We are free when we are able to accept that we do not have to be a somebody to be loved by God, we just have to be honest, genuine, and accepting of who we truly are as His sons and daughters.
The only way to save ourselves is to recognize that we cannot do it ourselves! It is very paradoxical in our postmodern, self-centered lifestyle; nonetheless, the only way for us to save ourselves is to go beyond ourselves and seek help from the Almighty and others who are instrumental in our sobriety. In contrast with the way of the world and of the Devil, the way of the Lord is grounded in humility, knowing who we are and who we belong to without being pretentious, demanding, or expecting things to be our way. This way of life begins with radical spiritual poverty, depending on God and His loving grace instead of the quantifiable goods of this world to be happy. It is a recognition that everything we have received, who we are, and the gifts given to us, is to be shared in and through love for all. In loving Christ, we are willing to embrace the imperfections of this world without allowing them to define us or hurt us deep from within. We are even willing to bear insults and dissatisfactions from others who do not understand us because our true freedom is found in loving Him. We find our satisfaction by seeking holiness through the honest, genuine, and transparent gift of ourselves to others as we point others to the One who loves them.
The hardest but most needed step in any recovery program is to be true to one’s self in all its blessings and imperfections. The more we try to hide or run away from reality and our true self, the easier it is to be tempted to escape, ignore, numb, or medicate one’s self from what hurts the most. The greatest and hardest love is the acceptance of one’s self in all its brokenness and to see ourselves as we are, in need of God‘s grace! That is why we often find the popular motto, “To thine own self, be true” embossed in each and every Alcoholics Anonymous coin given out to members. Without a doubt, sobriety is a daily, personal, and intimate decision not to let our lies, false facade, addiction, brokenness, or whatever is holding us back to dictates us and who we are.
The last thing we want to do is to play game with the Almighty, to be someone that we are not! We can lie to others, judge them, feel righteous, but we cannot lie to God, because when we try to point a finger at others to feel good about ourselves, four fingers point back at us first. The greatest tragedy is to live our whole life with our own self-righteousness, criticizing others, thinking that we are better than them, putting ourselves on a pedestal, but never humble enough to confess our faults and be changed with His grace.
God‘s peace is not just an absence of war and trials, it is a divine blessing to be grounded in Him with the gifts He has bestowed upon us. To be at peace means that we are able to be content with what He has given, happy and joyful that His love and grace are enough for us and we really do not need to ask for anything else. Therefore, do not be afraid to accept, embrace, and love who we truly are through His grace; and if we fail, allow this same loving grace to reconcile, mend, and change us deep from within.
When we are allowing ourselves to be who we are by seeking true freedom in Christ Jesus, we become liberated from the slavery of sins, the yokes of demonic and worldly lies. The unconditional love of God received will transform us deep from within so we can selflessly love Him and serve others in true humility instead of self-centered glories or pretensions. Truly, there is a way out from our own social and worldly cynicism which locks us in our self-created hell of endless anger, resentment, and frustrations! There is a way to overcome the demonic yokes of fear by seeing ourselves as we are, honestly, genuinely, and transparently in and through the eyes of the One who created us out of love and for love.