henri nouwen: being merciful with ourselves

We need silence in our lives. We even desire it. But when we enter into silence we encounter a lot of inner noises, often so disturbing that a busy and distracting life seems preferable to a time of silence. Two disturbing “noises” present themselves quickly in our silence: the noise of lust and the noise of anger. Lust reveals our many unsatisfied needs, anger our many unresolved relationships. But lust and anger are very hard to face.

What are we to do? Jesus says, “Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). Sacrifice here means “offering up,” “cutting out,” “burning away,” or “killing.” We shouldn’t do that with our lust and anger. It simply won’t work. But we can be merciful toward our own noisy selves and turn these enemies into friends.

daily reflection: rescued by surrendering

Characteristic of the so-called typical alcoholic is a narcissistic egocentric core, dominated by feelings of omnipotence, intent on maintaining at all costs its inner integrity. . . . Inwardly the alcoholic brooks no control from man or God. He, the alcoholic, is and must be the master of his destiny. He will fight to the end to preserve that position.

— A.A. COMES OF AGE, p. 311

The great mystery is: “Why do some of us die alcoholic deaths, fighting to preserve the ‘independence’ of our ego, while others seem to sober up effortlessly in A.A.?” Help from a Higher Power, the gift of sobriety, came to me when an otherwise unexplained desire to stop drinking coincided with my willingness to accept the suggestions of the men and women of A.A. I had to surrender, for only by reaching out to God and my fellows could I be rescued.