The Gift of Sadness (Part 8)

The Gift of Sadness (Part 8)

So there it is, the hard cold truth may not actually be the hard cold truth. Not that
we get to dictate truth, but we certainly have the freedom with which to
apprehend it. Into do so in our own unique way.

Life is the mystery of learning everything we do not know. With that knowledge
we have the choice to trust in the universe or the one who holds the universe or
to believe there is nothing at all out there.

That choice will always be ours. And the end One believe cannot be pitted
against another. We simply must choose for ourselves. And face the
consequences. That is a great existential responsibility.

The Gift of Sadness (Part 7)

The Gift of Sadness (Part 7)

There is a self-inflicted kind of sadness that comes through wanting something we are not supposed to have.  It's ultimately a desire for some kind of control, some way to keep things from going a certain way, from losing what we love.

Obviously love is a good thing.  Loving and being passionate for things can be a good thing.  But when we begin to fear losing those things (including power) we have started down a dark descent.  We have made that thing (or keeping it) a god.

When we become the dictators of what must stay and what must go, we have entered a sure sort of sadness that almost inevitably leads to despair.  When we hold things loosely, when we entrust them to the universe we get them back.

The Gift of Sadness (Part 6)

So attachments lead to suffering, or sadness. Maybe that’s ok. Maybe that could even be a good thing. Again, the whole basis of our discussion is that sadness can be a gift. (think old guy in the back of church yelling “Amen” to a sermon on suffering).

It’s not masochism, but it may be related. Masochism actually enjoys and longs for more pain. What I am suggesting is that we don’t avoid sadness or pain (not that we long for it). And as we endure it and its trials we find strength.

The old verse oft quoted in urban churches, “pain comes for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps 30.5) may get to it. In other words, “this is going to hurt, it really will. But only for a time. It’s worth enduring for what’s on the other side.”

So we learn to give sadness context. We know it comes with trials. We know trials build character. We know character is a very good thing. There are no shortcuts to producing character. It is etched in the halls of enduring struggle.

But it doesn’t feel good when its happening. And we are a culture very sensitive to our feelings. We are probably too aware of our feelings. Being mindful of your feelings (Jedi talk) is one thing, being controlled and manipulated by them another.

What the Jedi’s refer to as feelings is almost an intensely trained intuition. Remember they are taught and trained not to fear, to meditate, to clear their mind, to focus. That assumes emotions are being trained, feelings are in their rightful place.

To the untrained novice who minds his feelings it may not turn out so well. Not that our feelings are necessarily mischievous, but they sometimes will over-accentuate our current reality. “This hurts, it really hurts.” True, but for a gain down the road.

Our bodies when working out get “trained” to understand this. They will be challenge, pulled, strained, etc. but then given the proper nutrition and rest time to heal and strengthen. So our feelings can be trained to endure hardships.

And this is the pattern: “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.” The suffering here is not self-inflicted agonizing or reaping from bad decisions, it is the kind of suffering good people ache down deep.

It is probably better understood as longing. It can be aroused by normal setbacks and frustrations, the complications of good things moving forward, physical fatigue, any experience of things that keep faith dreams from blossoming into realities.

But enduring such set backs with grace (suffering or longing in the purest sense) builds a kind of muscle within. It produces a determination to withstand such obstacles and to push through the mundane. That is perseverance in the true sense.

Once we develop this muscle we begin to see the cyclical patterns of real growth. There are no straight lines in progress. We bump into ourselves constantly but hope is knowing that despite it all this thing is moving forward. We will make it!

The Gift of Sadness (Part 5)

In today’s world we are rather disgusted to see an animal being butchered. It seems barbaric and strange. For people who lack refinement. Mayne country bumpkins who live off the land do such things but we prefer our meet in a delicate salad.

But someone had to kill that chicken. Someone had to raise that chicken for the purpose of being killed and eaten. Someone had to deal with the emotional toil of birthing, raising, and killing animals for the sole purpose of eating them.

Blood was spilt. Be sure. But it is blood few of us will ever see. We are carefully distanced from the process so almost to dis-believe its reality. Now certainly there are more ethical farms and more humane ways of farming, but blood is blood.

We can rightly and confidently say (us meat-eaters at least) that in order for us to eat, blood must be spilled. It’s simply the truth. Life comes out of death. This is concept very familiar to any culture that lives more directly off the land.

As we move from this concept of food necessary coming from death, we enter into another foreign concept to “modern” people: sacrifices. Animal sacrifices were and still are in some parts a normal part of life and culture.

The concept of life in the blood is transferred from sustenance to forgiveness. In other words, there is a due penalty for our transgressions. There is a terrible sense of immanent justice due, not perceived but divinely mandated.

These are strong justice cultures. These are cultures that find the idea of forgiveness rather disturbing. They believe strongly in a moral code that demands a punishment when something wrong is done. The code can not be undone. It just is.

So either we die for our transgressions or something else dies in our place. Again, this was not in anyway a new or foreign concept. It was (and is) a reality for many civilizations. My wrongs set off a negative energy throughout the universe.

In the Star Wars Jedi world they were aware of this justice (sometimes called karma). The Jedi’s were held to a code of forgetting or transcending certain normal needs so as to avoid necessary entanglements in the system of love and justice.

The philosophy was simple. Attachments (love) would lead to fear (portrayed in Annekin missing his mother), fear of losing. Fear would lead to anger. “Why did I have to lose her?” Anger would lead to hate. “I hate who took her away.”

And ultimately hate would lead to suffering. But not the redemptive kind. The kind where joys were not permitted and where strings were always attached. This internal turmoil would lead to a giving over to the power of the dark side. [Not the Sun]

Remember: Jedi’s were keepers of justice and peace. But if that mission is built on suffering it is misplaced. Annekin probably should not have become a Jedi. Or he should have changed the Jedi code not to marry. Instead he internalized.

The Gift of Sadness (Part 4)

Sadness is logical. Especially for people who care. Who are aware. Who admit to the harsh realities of many in the world. The logical response to so much suffering is to be sad. But good sadness will never stop with the logical.

For just that much could tip the scales of the human experience toward despair. Instead of a healthy “suffering with” type of compassion, it ends up being a “suffering instead of,” it isolates from those people instead of bringing us closer to them.

In our attempt to connect with their pain we enter our own. Only too easily we get locked away in our own suffering and its ensuing coping mechanisms. It doesn’t bring us together and certainly does not offer hope. But it is logical.

So at some point a deal comes our way where we must choose understanding (logic) or peace (hope). Logically hope makes no sense. The odds are against us. Evil is too powerful. The suffering of the world too great. But who made logic king?

And the world of logic gets turned on its head when we really consider the non-rationality of the world from a theological context. Now certainly in today’s world there are those unfamiliar with or in dis-belief of a God beyond the universe.

But let’s consider for a moment the possibility that there may actually be One. Let’s consider the Creator God of the major world religions. This God was before all worlds, un-created, the uncaused cause. By definition the One responsible for this.

Most of the major world religions of the Book (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) do not have a developed concept of a God who interacts with and enters the world He created. In Islam and Judaism God is completely other, distant from the tainted world.

In Christianity, we have the unique concept of a God-man who helps create the world and then enters it, and we have the very unique concept of a God that is One (like Jews and Muslims) and yet three distinct persons.

The Christian-God is uniquely able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” because he became “fully human in every way.” Not to mention this God-man was sent on a mission of what appears like human failure: to become the sacrifice.

Some mis-understandingly think of it as suicide. If he truly was only dying for himself and was not actually somehow a sacrificial lamb who “takes away the sins of the world” than that would be true. Let’s just imagine for a second he maybe was.

The Christian-God is then one “familiar with pain, a man of suffering.” Jesus who knew no sin became sin, to the extent where for a time God dies. Christianity teaches that God died. Too much for most people. A lot of suffering, blood and guts.

And God has to sacrifice His Son, the only way to get back what was lost. Again, too much for most. Why doesn’t God just change His mind? Why does He need all this blood shed? Perhaps it is worth investigating further to shed light on sadness.

The Gift of Sadness (Part 3)

Thoughtfulness is an under-appreciated virtue in today’s world. It goes beyond remembering a birthday card. It’s being deliberate, almost goal-oriented when it comes to people. Is it possible to be goal-oriented with relationships?

Relationships by their very nature are organic, natural, un-coerced. Yet, most of us would agree, sustaining them takes work. But what kind of work? And is “work” really the right word for it anyway? This is where sadness strangely comes in.

Sometimes the motivation we need to sustain relationships is letting ourselves feel the sadness of not having them anymore. We move from why keep to why not keep? We realize the alternatives to having that person actively in our life are not better.

We move further down the path of what would be a fling-mentality. We don’t use people. We understand the depth of their sacredness and refuse to start something we don’t want or need to finish. We don’t acquire friends, we cultivate friendships.

Of course no one is perfect at this. But we try. And we have all either been through a process or known someone who has directly been through a broken relationship only to head straight way into another. We are all challenge-averted to some degree.

We want things to be easy. We want at least with our precious little “free” time to have someone who will make our lives easier, not more complicated. We want someone who will stroke our fragile ego (in a healthy way) and reinforce our true identities.

The problem is that we are all wanting that same thing. And we are all dealing with the shame of not living up to people we want to be. We fall short. Constantly. We over-sleep. Over-think. Over-eat. Over-simplify. Over-whatever or we don’t.

We are always over or under doing life. And there is no one to tell us we are getting the balance right. We bring that heavy weight into all our relationships. We need. But so do they. But at times our needs become more important than theirs.

Relationships have many layers of complications. Still we manage to make commitments to certain ones. Abandoning certain important ones never feels right. No fault divorce in America really opened this reality up.

It legally allowed (for the first time) easy outs of the most realized committed relationships. Of course there are many who were for the first time able to leave abusive, unhealthy marriages. I’m not sure that’s who benefited most.

The freedom to leave really started changing the nature and definition of marriage. It necessarily became a question of happiness, since nothing else is really binding me to the relationship. I am happier with the person that without?

That may seem like the right question. Don’t know that, simply put, we are capable of answering it ourselves. People forced to existentially deal with that question and make the call were tormented by their own freedom.

The Gift of Sadness (Part 2)

Now the reality is you will find injustice everywhere you look for it. At a mainstream chain family restaurant with my family (we had a gift card) we started talking to the hostess. She was a very laid back, pleasant upper-middle ages hispanic woman.

It was just after Christmas. She admitted to working too much over the holidays (“I can never say no to a shift”) to get her kids stuff and to try to fix her van. As a hostess there - not a waitress, she probably makes only $7 or so an hour.

She probably does not have a college education, was over-weight, and generally schlump-y. As I began to feel sad for her I realized that my being sad for her doesn’t change her situation or make it any better. My sadness does not help.

I will never forget playing music at a homeless shelter for a holiday party. I was playing a rather morose song on the guitar when a bold teenager (what teen is not) said, “man, this is a homeless shelter, we definitely don’t want to hear the blues.”

I had let my head get filled with sympathy and was convinced that somehow me sharing their sorrow (or feeling sorry for them) was helping them. It was also probably my way of apologizing to them for my having and them not having.

It ultimately comes from a scarcity mindset (what some call zero-sum). If I have, others do not have. There is only so much to go around. The “have-nots” will never get ahold of the wealth of the “haves” because there is not enough to go around.


Clearly the homeless teenager knew better than I did. What he was really saying is, “Man, I need a chance. I need resources. I need support. Help me on my way so that I can aspire to my best. I got a lot of life in me.” He didn’t need my sympathy.

And then I may not have had or known about the resources. But I could have (and should have) started a relationship. But I didn’t have time for that. I was too busy serving him. See the stupidity. So much of our charity is the same.

The beautiful news is that any of us can start a relationship. The bottom line of compassion is that. It moves us beyond mere emotion to action, to caring. We will be tempted to see the under-resourced as a problem to be solved.

Don’t! We are starting a relationship, not fixing a car. And human beings are complex creatures full of layers of intricacy. And yes, we are also creatures of habit with strong drives toward the addictive. It all beautifully blends into us.

And loving another human being does not come with instructions. We will feel in-equipped. We are IF the goal is fixing the person. If instead we are there for the person as encouragement, support, and reminders they are in charge, we are not.

We can all love. We can all hope. We can all dream. We can all help others do the same. We will be tempted to look for experts. And certainly at times we will need advice. But there are no experts at love. We are all novices in the field of grace.