Joan Chittister: Psalms, Psyche, Healing

Joan Chittister, OSB

“I kept my sin secret and my frame
wasted away. Day and night your
hand was heavy upon me.”
– Psalm 32

This psalm is a piece of very good psychology about the burdens we carry within us, our unforgiven sins.

When we don’t face our faults, our problems, our weakness, our angers, our sense of inadequacy — worse, when we blame them on others, or deny them, or need to be perfect, or become defensive — we refuse to accept ourselves. Every doctor and psychologist in the country sees the effect of that in their offices every day.

We all have things we need to forgive in ourselves or face in ourselves. We have things we know we ought to ask forgiveness for from someone else, but pride and stubbornness hold us back.

These things become a barrier between us and the community, a hot stone in the pit of the stomach, a block to real happiness. And nothing is going to get better until we face them.

Forgiveness occurs when we don’t need to hold a grudge anymore: when we are strong enough to be independent of whatever, whoever it was that so ruthlessly uncovered the need in us. Forgiveness is not the problem; it’s living till it comes that taxes all the strength we have.

Some people think that forgiveness is incomplete until things are just as they were before. But the truth is that after great hurt, things are never what they were before: they can only be better or nothing at all. Both of which are acceptable states of life.

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness,” Norman Cousins said. You will, in other words, have lots of opportunity to practice. Don’t wait too long to start or life will have gone by before you ever lived it.–Joan Chittister, OSB

From Songs of the Heart: Reflections on the Psalms by Joan Chittister (Twenty-Third Publications)