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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A time for healing

When one of my brothers and sisters is hurting, I pray that I have the sensitivity to be aware of this and to respond to their need. Although our church asks much of us, not all are empowered equally to respond to the needs due to overwhelming pain that many of us experience periodically.

First, I want to directly address the question of whether religion can foster poor mental health. Because Christ has asked us to consider others needs ahead of our own in order to fulfill his mission for us, and our faith has asked us to subjugate our needs as an offering to God, you should strongly consider the possibility that these could be maladaptive behaviors. Abraham Maslow, in his teaching as a psychologist, may have shed light on some of the paradoxes of meeting our basic needs versus the needs of others: he indicated that the former must precede the latter which he dubbed "self actualization." Each of us does have emotional needs and we need to address them. Most people who are "religious" are so because they have an emotional need that is fulfilled by seeking God. If someone has psychopathology (and we all may, to some degree) the role of religion needs to be more of that of healing, not of calling to virtue. To everything there is a time and a place.

The second way that I see a nuance that religion affects emotional health is that of a comforting, parental sort of presence. Even the name "Father" attributed to the priest suggests this. The sacraments are highly significant episodes, at the most important milestones in our family life and are appropriate times for celebration.

The third way that religion and emotion are connected may be the goal that I have for myself and that I would like to see for my brothers and sisters: that is the constructive, symbiotic relationship that religion and emotion can have when one is a healthy, integrated, and whole person. Jesus' life as recorded in scripture is the embodiment of that. He had his trials, his psychic pain no doubt, but he was able to love us all unconditionally. His treatment of the sick was not the same as, for example, his disciples, which is appropriate. I hope that I can achieve and maintain the greatest spiritual maturity, for the purpose not only of having that self satisfaction, but because I will be doing God's will and exhibiting the greatest degree of faith and loving my fellow man the best.

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