Sean: “I have a general comment to make on the subject of pastoral counseling: evil exists; it's inside us and outside of us. That truth saves us from the tendency to objectify evil in the people we see around us. Nobody is evil incarnated. This was the fallacy I fell into as an atheist, that evil was best fought by fighting evil people. But evil is more like a disease that has infected us all. To fight the disease we have to heal ourselves and heal the people around us-- not destroy the terminally infected. Fight evil not the people and first learn to fight the evil within then you can take the battle outside yourself.”
Sean: “This is something I really observed coming back to America from Malawi (where Sean was in the Peace Corps) There is an incredible woundedness here, so much fear, hostility and competition. This lack of human solidarity is unknown in a Malawian village. In our places of work we employ empty phrases like “professionalism” to mask our ruthlessness. In our personal relationships we stay cool and keep our distance instead of drawing ever nearer. We are so used to treating other human beings as means unto ends that we fail to see the pain it causes.
“How do we cope with this pain? It seems to me, many of us learn to put on a “thick skin”, but in doing so we numb our humanity because we cannot selectively numb parts of ourselves. When we numb one piece we numb the whole.
Sean: “I remember the first time I entered a Catholic church when I was in my early twenties and a professed atheist. I’d never been in a church building prior to that day. It was not an event I could easily forget—it was dark inside at the end of the day, but little rays of light shone through the stained-glass and hung in the air thick with incense smoke from an earlier mass. There was a sense of stillness, of vastness, something now I recognize as holiness that I could dismiss, then, but could not ignore. The only sound to disturb the mysterious stillness was from a woman crawling on her knees praying the Stations of the Cross and I could do nothing more than perpetually glance over and think, “This woman is insane, these people are insane.” But still there is something you cannot ignore.
“At some point in our journey of faith, I think we all have to deal with this notion of insanity. I draw strength by recalling the saints and holy people and their works of mercy that may well have been dismissed as mental illness. In my own story of conversion, they might say my religious beliefs are insane, but we judge by the fruits and the fruits of my conversion paint the opposite picture: of one saved from mental illness, from addictions, wounded relationships, consuming anger and resentments.
“If God offers us hope and we choose despair; if He offers us joy and we take sorrow; if He offers life but we prefer death then, that, I think, is insane.
Marti: The decision to forgive, not necessarily the feelings of forgiveness, yields a significant and often energizing experience of freedom.
Sean: Before my conversion I was probably the most unforgiving person I’d ever known. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a form of self-made bondage. If you are hardhearted and unforgiving of other people’s shortcomings, inevitably you end up holding yourself to the same hard-hearted standard. Forgiveness allows you to accept your own faults and love yourself for what you are (which is a glorious creation of God).”
Sean: “I can’t agree with the author more in terms of the healing that Christ offers. In the first few weeks of my conversion I came to know that healing very well. I won’t go into detail, but just say that Christ came in glory into my life, healed my heart of many years of pent up anger and resentment, healed many of my relationships and swept away a couple harmful addictions that had plagued me my whole adult life. I can say that, in the first few weeks of conversion, I experienced Christ mostly as a healer.”