The Art of Suffering

Finding an easier way to get through the pain.

We all endure suffering and handle it differently. Suffering has many levels and can be expressed in various emotions and behaviors. It can be very painful, even destructive to relationships. What can we possibly do to get through this difficult time in a healthier way?

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What is suffering for you may not be suffering for me. What is suffering for me today may not be suffering for me tomorrow.

To the degree that we surrender to our suffering is the degree that we will grow stronger spiritually.

The idea seems simple but it’s difficult and even painful to walk out.

As a recovering addict, I am usually trying to avoid pain at all cost. But I’m finally learning the more I fight the pain and suffering, the more I try to run from it, to avoid it, to remove it… the worse it gets and the longer it may last.

If we can find our way to accept the moment and its lesson for us, trusting that there is something better on the other side of the suffering, we are closer to the Peace of God that passes all understanding.

When I surrender to what this moment brings I am accepting God’s providence. By trusting Him, I am loving Him.

 

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The Road to Recovery :: STEP 7

Working the Traditional 12 Steps and the Eight Principles of Celebrate Recovery

In THE ROAD TO RECOVERY column along with working the traditional 12 Steps of Recovery we are working the Eight Principles of Celebrate Recovery that are based on The Beatitudes of Jesus. Our steps align with the monthly calendar.

STEP 7: We humbly asked God to remove all our shortcomings.

“If we confess or sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9 

 

PRINCIPLE FIVE (Celebrate Recovery): Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.


“Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.” ~ Matthew 5:6

This leg of our recovery journey continues to be challenging. In Step Four we examined ourself through our moral and spiritual inventory. Step Five required the discipline of confession to a trusted friend or mentor. With Step Six came a time of repentance followed now by Step Seven and the purification of our character.  

 
Having become willing to yield our defects to God we now must bow humbly before our creator in the hopes that He will see fit to remove them. It’s important not to confuse humility with the humiliation that we may be very familiar with as recovering addicts. God doesn’t want to shame us, He only wants us to submit ourselves to His way for our life.

Three reasons we need humility:

  1. We need humility to recognize the severity of our character defects. Without it we may minimize the pain they cause to ourselves and others.
  2. We need humility to acknowledge the limits of our humanity. We can’t remove these character defects with our intellect or willpower.
  3. We need humility to appreciate that it’s only God’s mighty power that can transform our life.
 

Our goal at the end of this step is to find peace with ourselves.

When we go to God we must bring our inventory list and be specific in our prayer. It can be painful and difficult going through this list of wrongs again. Our stinking thinking may tell us we’re not worthy of the growth and progress we’re making. But if we come with the right attitude God will honor our efforts.
 

Father God, thank you for helping me become willing to be molded into who you want me to be. I pray that you would remove every defect of character that stands in the way of my being useful to your work. Give me the strength I need to go on from here. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen

If you can’t see the video screen below CLICK HERE for our Road to Recovery theme song.

RESOURCES:
Celebrate Recovery Bible
Celebrate Recovery Leader’s Guide
Life Recovery Bible
Life Recovery Devotional
The Twelve Steps for Christians
Prayers for the Twelve Steps-A Spiritual Journey
Serenity: A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery
Recovery: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice

12 Steps of Humility

Avoid Excessive Laughter


EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 
 
 

THE TENTH STEP OF HUMILITY: 

A monk is not given to ready laughter.

A fool raises [her] voice when [she] laughs. ~ Sirach 21:20

Today’s humor leaves much to be desired. The stand-up comic routines and movie humor are often sarcastic, mean and usually at the expense of others. This is what Saint Benedict is referring to when he asks us to avoid excessive laughter.

Humor allows us to see life from the lighter side. Laughter on the other hand is an emotional expression which, for many years, was looked down upon in the upper classes of society. It was considered to be a lack of self-control and vulgar.

The prideful use this negative, hurtful humor to hide their weaknesses. Avoiding their own internal pain, they use arrogant jokes to make themselves look better than others.

In the Tenth Step of Humility, Saint Benedict encourages us to take our humor very seriously. We must guard our laughter taking care not to use it in a hurtful way. 

The humble person cultivates a soul in which everyone is safe. ~ Joan Chittister*

 
RESOURCES:
The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister*
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chitister
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Benedicts’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry

12 Steps of Humility :: LEARN FROM OTHERS

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 

THE EIGHTH STEP OF HUMILITY: The monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by [her] superiors.


Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. ~ Proverbs 11:14 (MSG)

It’s difficult to find young people who respect, listen and learn from adults.  In the 1970’s, my generation of youth, no one over the age of 40 was to be trusted much less respected.

We can’t just pick on the young, many adults are hesitant to learn from others. We think we’ve got life all figured out and don’t need advice from anyone. 

The ability to learn from others is a sign that we are at ease with ourselves. If we’ve worked The Seventh Step of Humility, found and accepted our own weaknesses, then we are well positioned to learn from those around us. 

The eighth degree of humility brings us to such respect for others that we can follow the great rather than get lost making the path as we go. ~ Joan Chittister*

Those who are unteachable are usually not concerned with their spiritual growth.  That’s why I must regularly examine the “pride” barometer of my heart. 

Am I blindly walking the same path over and over again? 

Am I willing to asks others for direction?



RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister*
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry


Image credit: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

12 Steps of Humility :: RADICAL SELF-EXAMINATION

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 

THE SEVENTH STEP OF HUMILITY:
A monk not only admits with [her] tongue but believes in [her] heart that others are better than she is.



It is good for me that I was humbled so that I might learn your statutes. ~ Psalm 119:71

Again the ancient language of Saint Benedict goes against our grain and everything we are taught today. But without a doubt the Rule is Biblical!


This radical self-examination, seeing ourselves as inferior to others is not to be done in a self-deprecating, undervalued way. 

When we can find joy in seeing the value of others over ourselves we allow ourselves to be teachable.

“Once we stop pretending to be what we know we are not, we are free to except ourselves and except others as well…  In this acceptance of our own meager virtues and our own massive failures, we have a chance to understand the failures of others.  We have the opportunity to become kind.” ~ Joan Chittister*


The seventh step on Benedict’s ladder of humility is asking us to make room for personal growth. 



RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister*
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry

Image credit: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo

BOOK REVIEW

Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister

Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited

by


Joan D. Chittister

 

 


Shortly after I was introduced to Benedictine spirituality in 2012, I found Joan Chittister. The title to this book was intriguing to me since I’ve been walking the recovery road for a while.

In The Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited Joan does a remarkable job breaking down Saint Benedict’s 12 steps of Humility into easily applied life principles. I’ve read this book twice and use it regularly as a resource.  I also enjoy Joan’s blog and other books which you can find here:  joanchittister.org.

Sr. Joan’s writing is beautifully descriptive.  She is one of my favorite authors today.  
I highly recommend everything by Joan Chittister! 

 

A Monk in the World :: HUMILITY

As MONK IN THE WORLD WE ARE LEARNING THE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM AND HOW WE CAN APPLY THEM TO OUR LIVES OUTSIDE THE MONASTERY WALLS. 


humil’ity, n [L. humilitas.]
freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; a deep sense of one’s own unworthiness in the sight of God; self-abasement; penitence for sin; and submission to the divine will.** 


Showing respect to the Lord will make you wise and being humble will bring honor to you. ~ Proverbs 15:33


One of the toughest things to learn and practice is humility. Certainly not a topic of daily conversation. But in the last couple of years this is exactly where God has had me parked. And I am reminded of it regularly.  


Why? 

Because I struggle with pride, vanity and every possible opposite of humility.

I will sit and think lowly of myself, having a pity party, imagining no one cares about me, thinking that nothing I do matters to anyone.  I never imagined doing this was prideful.

In fact I am having an immodest estimate of my own worth. I am thinking I should be more important to everyone else than they seem to be showing me.

Everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored. ~ Luke 14:11

This saying demonstrates that all exaltation is a type of pride. ~ The Rule of Benedict 7:2

Saint Benedict’s Rule has humility at its core because humility is at the core of the Gospel. That means it should be at my core as well.

I might be walking around with humble behavior. But if in my heart I am always seeking more recognition… I’ve still got a lot of work to do!

**Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary

12 Steps of Humility :: ACKNOWLEDGING OUR FAULTS

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

THE FIFTH STEP OF HUMILITY: a monk should not conceal from her abbess any evil thoughts entering her heart or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confess them humbly.  

Centuries before the psychology industry built their fortunes on our troubles Benedict of Nursia knew the power of confessing to a spiritual guide or mentor.


One of the most difficult things to do is to admit our faults to another person. But as long as we keep our wrongs hidden they have a hold on us. The recovery community says, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” 

We destroy ourselves by failing to confess the germ of greed, ambition, anger, and lust at the very moment it is growing in our hearts. We give ourselves life by working through our problems with the wisdom figures in our lives who are stronger at that moment than ourselves. ~ Joan Chittister**

Declaring our faults aloud begins the healing process. Once we do share them we can forgive ourselves, begin new behavior and let the past go.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. ~ Psalm 32:5

Lord, remind me that when I refuse to confess my faults to you I am miserable. But when I stop trying to hide them, you are quick to forgive and all my guilt is gone! AMEN

RESOURCES:
The Rule of Saint Benedict Edited by Timothy Fry O.S.B
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
St. Benedict’s Toolbox by Jane Tomaine
15 Days of Prayer with Saint Benedict by Andre Gozier, O.S.B.
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison

Image credit: icetray / 123RF Stock Photo

The 12 Steps of Humility :: ACCEPT SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.


The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

The first two rungs on Saint Benedict’s ladder of humility help us find our place in the universe. The next brings us to spiritual adulthood by opening ourselves obediently to the wisdom of others.

Step 3 of Humility: Imitating the Lord Jesus a person should submit to their superior in all obedience.

To begin our spiritual growth process we must first find a mentor / teacher and then be willing to accept direction from them. God graciously puts someone in my life to guide me. It is up to me to recognize their authority and to be teachable! 

Thinking we know it all usually land us face first in the dirt!  If we would have started in that position to begin with, humbly accepting direction, we could have saved ourselves embarrassment.

Growing up depends on learning from others. And learning from others depends on humility, being willing to submit this false sense of unlimited power to the experience and vision and penetrating heart of another. ~ Joan Chittister **

By practicing the First Step of Humility: Recognizing God’s Presence  and the Second Step of Humility: Accepting God’s will  it becomes easier to submit to the authority of a mentor or teacher that has been placed on our life path.


Ultimately it’s up to us to listen, accept direction, and value the insights of others. We must see our teachers, whoever they might be, young or old, as the voice of God speaking to us!


RESOURCES: 
The Rule of Saint Benedict by Saint Benedict, Edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister**
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey

Image credit: rolffimages / 123RF Stock Photo

The 12 Steps of Humility

ACCEPTING GOD'S WILL

EACH MONTH IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY. WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. ~ St Benedict

 










Step 2 of Humility: A person shall love not their own will or take pleasure in the satisfaction of their desires; rather they shall imitate by their actions the saying of the Lord: “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

Certainly one of the toughest lessons we learn in life is that we don’t always get things our way. As children we are selfish with our toys, with our activities, our time, with our need for attention and even our friendships.

It doesn’t seem to get any better as adults. We want to control every part of our world.

If we can learn to let go and allow God to have control, life becomes so much easier.

But letting go is the hardest part.

I have found the more I practice letting go, accepting the current circumstances, the easier it is the next time.  Now don’t get me wrong. I still struggle with this. But it is getting easier. I just have to remember that what is out of my control is in God’s control. And what better place for control to be?

RESOURCES:
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry
The Way of Humility by Andre’ Louf