Living Dangerously

Most of us know what it is to be misunderstood and have our good intentions pooh-poohed or disbelieved. If we’re honest, most of us also know what it is to misunderstand and treat others’ good intentions with suspicion or incredulity. Comparatively few of us, however, know how to clear up misunderstandings without making things worse. Only too often we say or do something that strikes the other person to the disagreement as being off-key. Hurt or angry feelings multiply and what began as minor ends as major. Recently, I’ve had a couple of experiences of that myself. In both cases I can say that I had no evil intention, and I assume my interlocutor didn’t, either. The fact that attempts to patch things up didn’t go as hoped doesn’t mean that trying to resolve differences is pointless or doomed to failure. I think we have to go on living dangerously, trying to resolve differences when we can, but the time may come when we have to recognize we are unequal to the task and have to leave the matter to God. Knowing when to do that requires humility, trust and charity in equal measure. To some, leaving a disagreement unresolved (or turning it over to God, as I have suggested) is tantamount to failure and a sign of weakness. A few of my friends suffer from the ‘I must win every argument’ idiocy. I can live with that. What I can’t do is live with it in myself, can you?


20 thoughts on “Living Dangerously”

  1. Thank you Sister for this post, it has really set me thinking. Whilst us human beings can be remarkably resilient creatures we are also brittle and often easily offended and wounded. Many of us don’t just carry the wounds and scars, sometimes they remain raw and heighten our fear of further ones, of slights or perceive slights. We become hypersensitive to that which may hurt or cause offence and that leads to anxiety and mistrust. On my earthly pilgrimage one of the greatest challenges has been about personal acceptance, learning to love who we are as flawed individuals. With acceptance comes a greater capacity to forgive and to love. It is a daily challenge, one that requires us to place our lives and relationships, no matter how battered and bruised in the care of God, the omniscient and all loving. I often find myself reflecting on the life and example of St. Dismas, the Penitent Thief, there is so much that we can learn from his role in the Passion, most importantly that none of us is beyond the Grace of God Almighty. That sustains me when sometimes relationships are strained or sub-optimal in nature. You are quite right to say that in problematic situations and at other times we would do well to “leave the matter to God”.

    I wish you well on your pilgrimage of faith and service.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post. Living with imperfection — our own or anyone else’s — is never easy and has many facets, as you say. Praying for you as you pray for us.

  2. So very true. You’ve hit the nail on the head again, Thank you. Despite attempts at humility, trust and charity, so often it’s God’s Love that does the trick – and He and I both smile…

  3. There’s copious observation-based research these days which is designed to help people avoid conflict and initiate change. In other words, how most of these arguments are preventable in the first place, or why they go awry. What that research shows is most of the problems are related to faulty behaviours, especially in interpersonal dynamics, and not faulty logic.
    However, in my experience, most Catholics think there can’t be anything they could possibly learn from the outside, owing to their intellectual prowess within: which reinforces the research findings…

    • I think some people would be more than ready to disagree about what constitutes ‘faulty behaviours’ or have an argument about nothing at all. This opinion is based, not on copious research as such, but on copious observation of myself and others. 😉

  4. O dear that hit hard! Quite rightly, too! “Father, into Your Hands” – again, and again, and again for Him to resolve in His own way (probably not mine!)
    Thank you!

  5. Thank you for replying. I agree! One area most of the research does neglect is the idea of an “examen”, or “know thyself”.

    I found the book, “Leadership and Self-Deception” interesting. It invites deep personal reflection in relation to us being the cause of much conflict in our lives. It is written from a Personalist perspective, and reads like a novel as many people baulk at “non-fiction”. There’s a summary, here, if you’re interested:

  6. Thank-you sister for this wonderful post. It is a reminder to me to step back and wait for that small voice of god for an answer. A lonely & dangerous place it certainly can feel. The waiting can take years, 10 so far with my daughter, but there is a little agreement starting….

  7. While Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven he does not specify how many times we must offer an apology other than leaving our gift before offering it to God and reconciling with those we have offended. According to Jewish law the faithful are to make three attempts to reconcile; after that if the apology is still rejected the other party remains in the wrong.

    Perhaps in overdoing an apology we are enabling a person to stoke the fire of their self-righteous indignation. Surely that is also wrong?

    Having been on both sides, myself, one thing I’ve learned with my advancing years is that forgiveness is truly a gift we give ourselves, and remaining unforgiving is self torment. As time passes we often view the situation differently (hopefully). Not all arguments are worth winning and the win in such cases is seldom satisfying.

  8. Thank you
    Have just had a really angry e.mail from a church colleague which felt like a slap in the face .e mails are contrary to our dealing with conflict preferring face to face discussion to resolve differences in love .
    I responded I hope in love but am grateful for this post , sometimes our best efforts simply fail . Leaving the conflicts , the misunderstandings with God is the only way with prayer and self examination.
    I have learnt to seek forgiveness from someone even if I am unsure of why I need to . Path of peace navigated amongst many thorns
    Thanks be to God for his unfailing mercy and grace .

    • Something I’ve only just learned, at 71 I seem to be a slow learner… when an email comes into my inbox from somebody who, from experience, I find has the capacity to wind me up, never open it at night time; choose when I’m strong enough to open and ponder, thereby letting the tension and steam evaporate.

  9. Life and living is a dangerous business, especially the more you think about it. And as the saying goes “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Resolving differences, you can only try your best and learn from one’s mistakes.

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