Monday, January 16, 2012

The Poverty of Who I Am

I have begun to realize how much I talk and how little I listen. I put myself out and push myself into relationships with other people, but I am not receptive. I'm always in a kind of desperation, like I'm trying to invade the other person's interiority with all of my large, clumsy, awkward personality and then do everything I can to impress, to amaze, to draw out some reaction, to somehow get the other person to love me, because in the end I just need to be loved, so badly.

I want to be loved. And I am so afraid of being alone. This is the poverty of who I am.

Other people don't usually regard me as pushy or obnoxious. If anything it's the opposite: I don't "promote" myself enough. This may be true in the professional sphere. And with people I am "nice," accommodating, non-controversial, and always leaning on my sense of humor. I also use my intelligence to illuminate things, to encourage and inspire. But in all of this there is a "push" of myself, which comes out of the abyss of the poverty of who I am. In everything I say and do there is always this cry that says, "Please love me, accept me, approve of me, affirm me."

But why is this a problem? I am surrounded by loving, accepting, affirming people. Why, then, am I restless? Why do I feel "unloved"?

Pathology plays a part in this, undoubtedly. I describe it in my book; it is something I call "the cloud" (see Never Give Up, pp. 18-28 []). But "the cloud" has been brightened considerably, even since I wrote the book. My restlessness goes deeper than any pathology. It goes right to the root of who I am. I am a person. I need to be loved. And I need to love.

Where does this all end?

Of course I know the answer from the Catechism. I do not want to underestimate the fundamental importance of this basic knowledge: that I have been created by God, that God loves me, that union with God is the purpose of my existence. Yes. Millions and millions of people walk the earth and do not know this truth about themselves. That stirs something else within me, something that remains in many ways confused, but that is gradually taking hold of me and changing me.

But it takes time. I ask forgiveness from my wife, my children, my family, and my friends--indeed from all the people God has placed in my life. There is something here that echoes the desire that Alyosha discovers in The Brothers Karamazov: the desire "to beg forgiveness from everyone, for everything." And I am willing to forgive, yes, to struggle on the path of forgiveness. Forgiving but begging too, because I know that I have not loved enough.

Jesus, I bring to You my broken heart,
broken by the desire to be loved
and the confusion over how to love well and truly.
O Lord, forgive me.
I have not loved You as I should,
and I am self-seeking and divided in all my relationships.
How can I love people truly,
with the "detachment" that recognizes that they belong to You alone,
and also with the passionate attention
that recognizes in each of them
the beauty of Your image and the glory of Your redeeming power?
Jesus, open my heart to receive Your healing mercy.
Change my heart,
and make me silent,
patient, and tender,
full of awe and wonder and gratitude
before Your gift of Yourself to me
and to every person I meet.
I am so in need of healing.
I am so in need of conversion.
Have mercy on me,
and make me the person You will me to be.