Monday, July 29, 2013

Life Without Emotional Expression

Can we have love without pain and sadness? These words introduce an  article in Bible  Life  by a priest who is on the staff of a religious education center. He shares his reflections with incidents in his life that brought these thoughts to mind.

Recently, after parking, his car in the diocesan parking lot he tripped over a block and bruised his left elbow and right knee seriously. While falling, countless thoughts were going through his head, he said, but he quickly got up and brushed off the mud and dirt from his clothes. There seemed to be no reason to be angry, he said, if no one was around to share his experience. What benefit would there be in anger, shedding tears or showing irritation, if no one would hear or see his suffering. That evening, because his accident was only known to himself, he felt he was not able to fully experience the pain of the situation.

Some 13 years earlier he had a similar experience. As a deacon at that time, along with two young persons and the assistant priest from the parish, he went on a week-long pilgrimage trip, on bicycles, to some of the Korean shrines. The priest took the lead and the two youths followed; he was at the tail end.

Returning from one of the shrines, on a bicycle, and falling behind the others, he peddled faster to catch up when a big freight truck passed by very close to him. The bicycle shimmied and spun out of control, with the front wheel hitting the side of the road, and he went flying through the air. He hurt his left shoulder and left knee much more seriously than he had hurt his body in the parking lot accident.  It was so bad he could hardly breathe. But there was nobody there to console him, to take care of his wounds, for his group was now out of sight. His whining would have been of no help, there was nothing else to do but get on the bicycle and continue on his way, pushing aside his pain and grievances. But all he could think about, he said, was meeting up with the group and "expressing the pain I felt when I fell so that i could truly experience the pain."  

There is of course the familiar scenes of children playing and falling and perhaps hurting themselves. Looking at their faces, they may seem ready to cry, but they don't. Only when their mother comes around do they begin to cry.  The pain is expressed in front of their mothers. The priest realizes that what he is saying sounds weird, but he believes the pain becomes complete only in the presence of  others. When we don't have anybody near, one does not feel the need to express the pain.

Our emotions come to the fore and take shape when we are with others, he says. Those who turn their back on the world and live by themselves will find, he adds, that their emotional life has become dry. They may not be hurting, but at the same time they will not be tasting the joy of happiness, and know the meaning of love.

In the last section of the Gospels, there is the passion and death of our Lord.  Many people appear who experience no sadness because of what is happening to Jesus; there is no close relationship and therefore no feeling of sadness. Sadness comes to us because of love. Without love, we do not have pain or sadness; we will lack feeling. The sadness of Peter because of his betrayal was possible because of his love for Jesus and the recognition of his own weakness. And the women "who beat their breasts and lamented over him" was only possible because of their love. We have no need to shun sadness if it comes naturally from a loving heart.

He concludes his article with the questions: How is it with me? Am I living a life without emotion? Is a life without sadness a happy life?  Would we be willing to live without love if we didn't have pain?

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