I am sure you are thinking, What a strange juxtaposition for a title! Joy and confession? How do those two go together? I am not entirely sure theydogo together completely, but I can tell you that I am beginning to experience pure joy again. I find myself laughing with reckless abandon more, and I find myself getting incredibly grumpy and sad less. And it hasn’t simply been the past six days while praying three times a day, following the liturgical hours; this joy has been slowly growing—like the bright green moss on the hillside by the river—since the new year started. I posted the other day, maybe yesterday, how I feel like I am finally taking control over my moods, rather than them controlling me, but just today, I felt complete joy. I actually threw my head back and laughed my big belly laugh. And I wasn’t embarrassed by it. Which, in turn, gave me more joy. I am no longer the shadow person I have been.
Part of my joy comes from observing Lent and knowing that in a few short weeks, we’ll be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. But another good portion of my joy comes from suggestions picked up from Pema Chodron’s The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Lovingkindness. InWisdom, Chodron advocates making friends with those parts of us that cause us anger, aggression, or aversion, because those attributes that irritate us about others are the same that irritate us about ourselves. Through the act of making friends with those attributes, and no longer trying to rid ourselves of those attributes, we learn to give kindness to others. Our desire to rid ourselves of those qualities results in an aggression toward those qualities when we see them in others. We become unkind to both others and ourselves. Because Chodron teaches how to be kind, I feel like I can begin to honestly look at myself and decipher what it is that I don’t like about myself, recognize that those features are simply part of who I am, make peace with that, and eventually stop trying to remove those attributes from myself and from others, thereby gaining a kindness and a sense of peace in regards to myself and others.
(Side note: My next spiritual read is Thich Nhat Hahn’s Living Buddha, Living Christ.)
How can Inotexperience joy when I have made friends with my whole self, with all of my attributes?
This is where confession comes in. First, I must closely self-examine to figure out what those attributes are that I don’t like about myself. Once I decipher that, I must confess those qualities to myself, to others, to God even. Through this confession, I name my weaknesses or those things which cause me pain. I claim them out loud. I call them what they are. Then I make friends with them, not “comfortable, hey let’s go have some pizza and beers friends,” but I acknowledge that those qualities are a part of who I am, and I sit with them. Get to know them. Make friends, like “sitting on opposite ends of the couch, but I am not trying to kick you out” friends. My weaknesses and I learn to coexist after I confess them. And through our coexistence they eventually cease to be a cause for anger or malice or injury. They just are.
I confess that there are a whole bucket of attributes of my personality of my life that irritate me, that I need to make friends with. And I hope that once I make friends with those facets, they will just sit at the other end of that couch and be quiet. That’s my biggest flaw: I don’t know when to be quiet. Maybe I need to take a silent retreat. Every day. One of the things I appreciate about this Buddhist idea of embracing our own flaws is that I don’t end up with a bucket of shame at what I’ve confessed about myself. I end up, instead, with a changed heart. Too many times, Christians miss this bit and would rather shame someone than encourage their wholeness. That, in and of itself, is a shame.
This whole discussion brings me around to what prompted these thoughts. Part of the evening prayer, which I have been praying for six days without recognizing this part, says, “You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of Life, your glory fills the whole world.” I think this part jumped out at me tonight, because for the first time in a long time, my heart feels light and joyful. I’m going to cling to that joy.