The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 16: Damage done.

Henri, Find the Source of Your Loneliness:

Whenever you feel lonely, you must try to find the source of this feeling. You are inclined either to run away from your loneliness or to dwell in it. When you run away from it, your loneliness does not really diminish; you simply force it out of your mind temporarily. When you start dwelling in it, your feelings only become stronger, and you slip into depression.

The spiritual task it not to escape your loneliness, not to let yourself drown in it, but to find its source. This is not so easy to do, but when you can somehow identify the place from which these feelings emerge, they will lose some of their power over you. This identification is not an intellectual task; it is a task of the heart. With your heart you must search for that place without fear.

This is such an important search because it leads you to discern something good about yourself. The pain of your loneliness may be rooted in your deepest vocation. You might find that your loneliness is linked to your call to live completely for God. Thus your loneliness may be revealed to you as the other side of your unique gift. Once you can experience in your innermost being the truth of this, you may find your loneliness not only tolerable but even fruitful. What seemed primarily painful may then become a feeling that, though painful, opens for you the way to an even deeper knowledge of God’s love.


Compassionate. Kind. Selfless. Considerate. Loving. Big-hearted.

All words used to describe me at some point or other in my life. And that is exactly who I want to be. Often I’ve thought that although I have no clue what kind of ‘vocation’ or ‘calling’ or whatever will be my permanent place in life, I know that every single day I am called to make sure people know that they are loved.

This is what I love about myself (most of the time) – that my heart is big and breaks easily and tries to keep others in focus.

This is what I hate about myself – that I am so focused on others that I start to fear them, their perceptions, expectations, assumptions of me, and I fear the possibility of others being disappointed in me.

I can hardly bear the thought of any person being upset with me, or disappointed in me, or disgusted by me, or – most horrifying – hurt by me.

I please. It’s just what I do.
I can call it compassion, or I can call it pleasing, but they both come from the same heart.

But the problem is that as much as I love compassion, I don’t practice it all the time.
Every once in a while I do hurt somebody I love, badly.
Facing the consequences of such a blunder just wrecks my soul.

As I wrote about forgiveness and Mumford last night, it struck me how difficult a journey it’s been for me to get to a place of forgiveness and grace from a place of bitterness and frustration… I know that journey.

And then it hit me. I am not always the forgiver, the one extending grace and having the upper hand. Sometimes I am the one who needs forgiveness, the one who desperately needs grace and cannot do a thing to get it without consent.

Who am I when I am not pleasing? When somebody is disappointed in me? When somebody is upset with me? When, worst of all, I have damaged another human soul that I love?

I know there is grace… But I know from my own journey it can take a loooooong time to get there.
I am trapped in the purgatory of somebody else’s forgiveness journey.

Lord have mercy as I wait. And Lord have mercy as I come face to face with the scars I’ve left on your children.


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One thought on “Day 16: Damage done.

  1. Thoughtful words. But then we know that we can’t even with the best intentions always please others. When we deliberately know we hurt someone, we can make that right. If we had to stand up to the person becasue they were asking us to do something we didn’t feel we should do, we can say I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings but I really can’t do that. I think it is harder when we feel wronged and the person doesn’t feel like they owe us an apology. I don’t always know what to do: confront them or pray and just let God help me to get over it. I could tell you more about my experiences with this too!

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