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Psychologically, we all need to aspire to a healthy individuality. One important way to fulfil this is to be close to healthy individuals who have a healing and balancing effect upon us, allowing us in our own way to be of help to others. But healthy individuals who have this effect are few and far between especially in a society as disturbed as ours.
Just having this aspiration is a good beginning and it develops by being aware that we have room for improvement – controlling our negative feelings, developing our capacity to give attention to others and so on. It’s consoling to know that, although we may not be very healthy individuals, does not mean we are all bad. Far from it. No one is perfect. Accepting our shortcomings, however, means we refuse to be dragged into self-rejection or self-hatred. For this, we need to feel the love and acceptance and unconditional forgiveness of those who know about or have even suffered from our faults. Community and family – if there are sufficiently healthy individuals in them – provide the love that allows us to be as loving as we can be at the stage of wholeness we have reached. Jesus insisted he did not come to condemn but to heal and why a true church does not exclude sinners but welcomes them.
What does healthy individuality mean? The best definition is a human being who exudes it.
Every human being is affected by an inner conflict between two aspects of their individuality which are striving, throughout life, to be integrated: like a double image trying hard to be set as one. One aspect of our individuality interprets everything from the outside, with itself as the illusory centre of everything. If we get stuck in this, we pursue power and control at any cost over others and become cruel (to others or ourselves) and disassociated from reality. A great deal of energy, which maybe is not available in this realm of time and space, is needed to pull us out of this extreme self-orbit. But even the majority, the less tragically divided and isolated individual, remains unhappy and creates unhappiness. However, they are still open to the ever-present grace of healing. Most of us even while making progress oscillate between the two states.
The unhealthy individual still needs others but treats them as objects for their own ends. They find the healing influence of community a difficult treatment to take. Honest, open relationship is difficult, except at the level of deep spiritual unity such as worship or contemplation together. Generally, however, it seems easier to relax and escape with others as part of a crowd, finding fleeting unity in some shared experiences (partying or sport). Community dissolves division while crowds allows each divided self to hide and protect from others its unique and vulnerable being.
Healing is progressive and a narrow path. It is a hidden, constant meaning of all life. In contemplative practice we balance, harmonise and unite the divided self as we die to the illusion of dividedness by taking the attention off ourselves altogether. Though we fear and resist this, when it happens, we expand into true liberty and joy of being. We even find that we are functioning better in daily life.
The kingdom is close at hand. And so is the Friend: the healthy individual who communicates his oneness to us when we feel most isolated.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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