Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mortification Through Smiling

I'll let you in on a little secret of mine. I revel in the witty comeback. Ohhh, nothing excites me when someone says something and I have just the zinger for them and I fling it at them. It must be how a pitcher feels when he puts one right over the edge of the plate and catches the batter looking for strike three. And I have to admit that my favorite comeback is the old "that's what she said!" This is reserved for when someone says something completely innocent and you turn it into something of a sexual nature and say, "that's what she said!"
Obviously, it's not good for my spiritual life turning innocent statements into sexual ones because I have to have my mind in the gutter. The witty come back, I think, can be a hindrance to my interior growth too because quite often there is someone at the other end of the remark. To have a good zinger sometimes you have to have some who has been zinged. Sometimes, it is better to hold my tongue so that someone does not get hurt.

Many of my comments are stupid (my wife's word!) puns. I'll take a comment and twist it around and repeat it in a way that the person obviously did not mean. Stupid I know, but it's a family trait. I inherited it from my uncles and I realize it's probably not as funny to anyone else as it is to us. How can biting my tongue help my interior life in these cases? It can be my little way of interior mortification. This struck me when I read a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva:

"The appropriate word you left unsaid; the joke you didn't tell; the
cheerful smile for those who bother you; that silence when you're unjustly
accused; your kind conversation with people you find boring and tactless; the
daily effort to overlook one irritating detail or another in those who live with
you . . . this, with perseverance, is indeed solid interior mortification." The Way, #173

If there is one quote that I would put one a Post-it and put on the dashboard of my car so I could remember it would be this one. Through a little mortification we learn to sacrifice and endure a little suffering. I am always one to preach joy and happiness but through a little sacrifice and suffering we can share in the sufferings of Christ and become more Christ-like. Mortification does not require us to wear camel hair undergarments or scale the Scala Santa on our knees. We can follow St Therese of Lisieux and just do those little things that help us get closer to Christ.

That's why the quote of St Josemaria means so much to me. It's filled with a list of small little things what would be difficult for me. Not telling that joke. Giving someone I do not like a cheerful smile. Having kind words or conversations with people I do not really want to talk to. These are all interior things that are very difficult for me to do.

Sometimes the biggest mistakes we make in our conversion is trying to make huge leaps. God is patient and gives us the grace we need to change. It's a long race. There are sidetracks. Sometimes for three steps forward in our interior life we take two steps back. The important thing to do is to make sure is that we keep moving forward even if it's my taking small steps like biting our tongue.

So next time you see me and I give you a pleasant smile ask yourself, "Did I just help Jamie get closer to God because I am that person who annoys him??" :-)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Jamie - your post WAS a zinger. It nailed me in multiple places where I need to grow.

    I think camel hair underwear would be FAR easier than following Escriva's guidelines here. It takes superhuman effort to follow through with the suggestions he offered in that quote.