As I think about my future as a professional in the fields of psychotherapy and spiritual direction, I am poignantly aware of a progressive nature towards the annihilation of discomfort. This seems to be occurring not only in the realm of the "helping professions," but in society as a whole.
An astounding majority of psychology’s involvement in the area of personal discomfort lends itself to the concept of dissonance as something that must be either skillfully prevented or promptly annihilated. This is illustrated in the vast amount of literature and practice claiming to help individuals prevent personal troubles or eradicate them altogether. Our society has come to embrace a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. It can be seen everywhere. Walk into a local bookstore, and you’ll find hundreds of psychological books on moving beyond grief, simple ways to relieve anxiety, and “bouncing back” from virtually every kind of major life disruption. It is not a seldom occurrence to hear of some highly praised Ph.D. coming to your area to give a motivational seminar on how to fix the problems that life presents so you can go back to enjoying the “good life.” The problem at stake is that, in the shadow of these glorified professional wound-dressers, we have come to define “good” as “the absence of bad.” As psychologist Dennis Gibson puts it, we become emotional hemophiliacs, terrified that the slightest touch of pain will cause us to bleed to death--but the good news is that God made our blood to coagulate. We are not going to bleed to death. There is no need to avoid all injury because we have the ability to heal.
We have been taught to avoid it, but it is detrimental to smother the reality of the hurt we all encounter. This is a fallen world, and we have all been suffocated. That is both of us, and everyone around us. We can either bury it or to let its texture mold the monument of our lives. Someone once said, "We have every right to be greatly disturbed." Disturbance does not equal doom. I am certain that if we will allow ourselves to face some of our harshest realities and deepest wounds, we will someday look back on those long days of piercing darkness and uncertainty and say, “Those were, without a doubt, some of the most important days of my life.” I am also certain that, especially as Christians, we will find that they were times when we came to a profound awareness of the grace of God, and that in those moments, God spoke things to us we may not have heard under any other circumstances.
Just as moisture softens clay to be fashioned, so the human soul is made supple in moments of vulnerability, and will eventually take the form of a monument—shaped over time by the etching of adversity and the flames of fortitude. Perhaps its placard would declare the words of Nouwen: “In the midst of our sadness there is joy…in the midst of our fears there is peace."