Several years ago I wrote this little reflection to my confreres as an active exercise in humility,lessons I always struggle with as a Lenten reflection. Ego, insecurity, and self defensiveness can often be the nexus for new infidelities and compromised love. I share them again as yet another cathartic opportunity and a help to anyone else who may find it helpful.
-Fr. Carl Chudy, SX
As a missionary, I have messed up so much that sometimes I feel surprised that God keeps believing in me. I’m humbled that so many people have supported me, accompanied me, been kind when I failed. An important aspect of missionary is being able to admit when you’ve messed up—to recognize your shortcomings and learn from your mistakes. So, here are some habitual ways I distort my relationship with God and with others.
When I Exaggerated the Story
Exaggerating, a.k.a. embellishing the truth, a.k.a. taking license with reality—lying, basically—can be a big temptation for us. But the truth is beautiful, it’s daring, it’s captivating enough. And it carries more power than any add-ons you can produce. Say it like it is, or don’t say it at all.
When I Dismissed Other People’s Problems
There have been times when someone brought a concern or problem to me and I essentially said,” Get over it.” I usually said it in a nice way. I sounded spiritual and caring while doing it. But it was the advice of someone who didn’t really care. I didn’t want to be that someone, but most of the time I was so consumed with the things I was dealing with in my own life that I had nothing else to give. So “Get over it” really meant, “I have no solution,” or, “I have no energy to walk this road with you.” From now on, I’m going to try my best just to listen, because even if I have no solutions, I have ears, a heart and hope.
When I Pretended to be Humble
Humility is easy to fake, but doing so is actually very prideful. You share enough to appear humble, but not enough to actually be humbled. Our generation is enamored with the idea of vulnerability, but we’re not very good at it. It has become a marketing tool to appear approachable. We’ll share some, but not enough to let people really get close to us. We still want control. We’re still ashamed. So we hide.
When I Thought Everything Depended On Me
I wanted to be in control, so I scheduled too many meetings. And the “meeting” became the main driver. I forgot to value the faces and began to focus on the agenda. I realized that I was communicating unspoken messages like, “I don’t trust you,” “I need to keep my eyes on you” “Unless I lead you in this project/strategy/situation you will fail.”
When I Started to Fall in Love With the Less Important
Focusing too much on some aspects of our culture made me fall out-of-love with Christ in some ways. I was trying to be a celebrity but not a servant. I wanted Twitter followers more than Christ-filled ones. I cared more about the light, the sounds and the program. So I forgot the broken, the faithful and the privilege of sharing the good news.
When I Devalued Community
It’s easy to believe the lie that “mission is a lonely place, or being in leadership is a lonely place.” It can be if you let it, but it doesn’t have to be. When I bought into that lie, I allowed myself to be a hermit, to play the victim card. But we were all created for community. This is not a cute congregational slogan, it’s a reality for survival. We need each other, and church leaders aren’t an exception to that rule.
When I Acted Spiritually Superior
There’s often a temptation to act like you’re a spiritual superstar, especially when you’re a leader. I’ve caught myself telling everyone how much I pray, or about the last time I fasted, or how good this morning’s time with the Lord was. But Jesus was all about keeping that stuff to yourself. Expose your weaknesses, let your strengths speak for themselves.
When I Expected Everyone to Put My Mission First
At times, I have treated confreres like they were all full-time provincial councilors, inwardly demanding stuff from them unfairly. I expected them to drop everything for the sake of my agenda, but the problem was, often it was for the sake of my kingdom, where I ruled as king and lord. Never forget, the whole point is to serve, not to be served.
When I Told Everyone “Community is Priority” but Lived Like the Ministry Was
I often find it easier to throw myself into the work of my office and the province than I do navigating the ins and outs of community living. Often being with others can be an excuse that I don’t want to be with confreres, at least at that moment.
When I Waited Too Long to Get Help
Are you in pain? Are you constantly feeling alone? Do you have emotions that seem out of control? That is me sometimes. And the self-awareness in this list was part of the healing process. Trust me, you need to talk to someone. Like right now. Pretending won’t do you any good. Don’t fight alone, you might lose. And that would be a shame.