Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fasting from Harmful Thoughts and Speech

(Note- I'm using Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton as my Lenten devotional this year. I'll be blogging the journaling prompts most days.)

The Christian must deny himself, whether by fasting or some other way, in order to make clear his participation in the mystery of our burial with Christ in order to rise with Him to a new life. ~Seasons of Celebration, p. 122

How can you "fast" from thoughts and speech that harm others, the community, and yourself?

I think I do a fairly good job of not giving voice to the meaner things that come across my mind around most people. That is to say, I'm very good at seeming like I'm not a judgmental person. But the truth is, of course, much more complex than the "best foot forward" one tries to present to others.

If you were to plant a listening device in my home or in my car you'd get a clearer picture of how I engage in thoughts and speech that are harmful to others, the community, and myself.

My wife, Jessica, is my closest friend, and we almost always say exactly what we think to one another. That's a good thing for the most part, because we all need people with whom we feel safe to express ourselves with no fear of retribution, and that's especially important in an intimate partnership like a marriage.

The downside of this freedom to speak my mind, however, is that I sometimes give voice to some of the uglier things that cross my mind. By allowing them to go from my brain out my mouth, I'm letting those harmful thoughts have more power than I would if I simply acknowledged that they were there and moved along.

I can be particularly mean when I think someone is being smug, judgmental, and a know-it-all. I get that way because those are the qualities I don't like about myself, and it's like looking in the mirror and seeing something I don't like. It's the speck to my log, if you will.

This will happen in the car, too. I've gotten better about giving verbal or non-verbal signs of my displeasure with other drivers now that Kate repeats every single thing I do or say, but if I'm by myself and listening to political chat on the radio, I'll just let loose when I hear a clip of a politician saying something I consider to be ridiculous.

So to answer today's question, I'm going to "fast" from harmful thoughts and speech by not giving voice to those thoughts, simply acknowledging that they're there, and moving on. I'll even try forcing myself to say a prayer for those that drive me nuts.

After all, Jesus said we should do that, so it might just be good for me.

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