I’ve always had a certain ability to be very introspective, which has been tremendously beneficial, but occasionally I find it is also perhaps one of my biggest pitfalls too. In seminary as we went through formation to be ordained priests, being introspective was part of the process; we had to look at ourselves and discern how to be a better man on a human level and on a spiritual level. Some guys did this with ease and for others, this process was a bit more laborious. I am naturally introspective and so when I am in various situations I am usually fairly aware of my interior state: happy, joyful, peaceful, sad, anxious, tense, scared, excited, etc. This is useful because, for me, it has helped me identify parts of my life that cause me to be anxious, scared, or tense and go deeper to find where the Lord still wants to heal me and help me to grow. Or I notice what brings me excitement, peace, and joy and so I am able to identify where the Lord wants to rest in me. Part of this process for me is being able to talk these things out with someone; my friends can attest that I wear my emotions on my sleeves and am fairly open about my interior state (perhaps they wish I were less so!). Regardless, it’s how I process and discern the Lord’s voice within my own heart, since, left to my own, I am likely to miss the Lord’s voice of truth. While this may be how I process, everyone listens and hears the Lord is working in their life differently and each way is absolutely good, that’s the beauty in the diverse way God created each human person. Even so, no matter how best we discern the Lord’s voice in our lives, I also think there is a danger in being overly introspective, which some are more susceptible to than others.
The danger lies in approaching any introspection alone without the Lord. And when we do this too much, it can result in disaster. A priest whom I know likes to say that the most dangerous place to be is inside our own head, unaccompanied (by Jesus). Often we approach ourselves much like we approach any problem we are faced with in life: as a problem that must be solved and if broken, fixed. Whereas God looks at us with a completely different perspective, He sees us as His beloved sons and daughters, not to be solved or fixed, but to be loved. We can sometimes look at ourselves and our experiences and see where there is tension or anxiety and conclude that this must mean something is wrong with us (individually). We reason that because we feel this way (anxious, tense, uncomfortable, etc.), we must be doing something wrong or we must be the problem and therefore need to change. While change and conversion are crucial for all of us to undergo to be saints, this is faulty reasoning. Just because we feel tension or anxiety doesn’t automatically mean that we are the problem (which many of us automatically conclude). The cause of the tension may not be any one person’s fault, often it’s just be the way a situation plays out with the various personalities involved and the unique circumstances simply because God created us all different. This is not a bad thing, praise the Lord we are all different, life would be so boring otherwise! It is crucial, therefore, in those moments of anxiety, to run to the Lord who speaks Truth and to then assert oneself; to refuse to give into the lie that we are the problem that must be fixed, but rather we are His beloved sons and daughters and not the problem. This is not done with pride (we should recognize that we are constantly in need of conversion and growth and keep striving for sanctity), but this is done with humility (recognizing the truth of who we are in God, absolutely lovable and good) and then to keep our heads up and to not fall into the dark pit of self-condemnation. We are called to be unashamedly who God created us to be! So, go out into the world and be you and nobody else, and in doing so give God glory and set the world on fire!