The Joy List; Mourning to Dancing
Ever regret something you said? Have you wanted to avoid someone of pre-judge them before you knew them, but once you learned more about them, you regretted how you may have treated them or felt like you had missed an opportunity to know someone amazing? We all have lots of regrets. Worrying about the future causes anxiety, but ruminating about the past can often leads to either anger or depression.
While I certainly believe that God is close to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:8), God is with us through our heartaches, including, if not especially when we grieve the loss of someone important to us- it seems that Jesus wasn’t just talking about death and loss. He was explaining that some of the most joyful people are people with consciences.
Oh sure, sometimes it feels like it would be better not to feel. It seems like people without a conscience (sociopaths and narcissists) must have it pretty good. They don’t care about other people’s feelings, they just do and say whatever they want without caring about how it effects (or affects) others. I know I often wonder if I’d be more successful if I just didn’t care.
But how an anyone like that genuinely experience real joy, not just temporary happiness? What they think is contentment is really callousness. What’s worse than hatred? Indifference. These are people that use people and love things, instead of loving people and using things.
They aren’t reflective. They don’t reflect on the things they say and do or who. Maybe because they wouldn’t like what they see. In literature and mythology vampires are creatures that suck the life energy out of others. One of the ways to recognize a vampire, is that they don’t have reflections. Powerful, seductive, even seemingly impervious, but dead. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually dead.
Jesus is telling us that while it’s true that if we live our lives with empathy and compassion, we’re certain to get hurt sometimes, often because we’re selfish and short-sighted human beings so we end up hurting others. That’s called guilt.
It’s important to understand the difference between guilt and shame. Shame destroys but guilt drives us to rebuild. Guilt & shame both make us want to de-construct, but shame is hopeless & helpless, it’s fatalistic and doesn’t want to rebuild, it wants to burn it all down and abandon it. Guilt doesn’t have to be permanent- it’s regret, it’s willing to take responsibility so that you can rebuild, revise, reform, retro-fit and resume being useful.
As much as I hate being trite or cliché, maybe some corny, cheesy kitsch will help. On the one “hand, hurt people hurt people,” and we’ve all been hurt at sometime or another. And “you always hurt the ones you love, the ones you shouldn’t love at all.” Right? And as the Tin Woodsman said in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ “now I know I have a heart, because it’s breaking.”
Mourning over grief- hurting about hurt you’ve caused is proof that you both care about others and are reflective, responsible and mature. You’re not a vampire.
Having a conscience means that you care about people besides yourself and that you are reflective & aware. It means you have standards of decency & respect other people’s rights & boundaries. It doesn’t mean that you have to live in constant shame or self-hatred.
Apologizing or making amends restores relationship. Being humble enough to admit you were wrong builds trust, it doesn’t make you look weak or inferior. That’s universal, even secular. You might even call this “Restorative Justice” on the personal, individual level.
Saying you’re sorry and trying to make amends is a way to be kind. Kindness always brings joy.
Now, if you think of yourself as Christian, think about this- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9.
Be honest about it when you hurt people and both you & they can heal.
Deny it and you’ll probably just keep hurting more people.