Father F. W. Faber’s (1814-1863) penetrating insights into human nature help us target old habits that we want to get rid of. But he doesn’t stop there — he’s ready with ways to grow new virtues of kindness, prayerfulness, and confidence that replace the yukky old stuff.
I’m reading his collection of writings, Spiritual Conferences, and am blown away by his frankness and fearlessness in laying out what ails us — and what we can do about it.
Here’s a snippet from the chapter “Wounded Feelings:”
“Sensitiveness affects us in various ways. It makes us fanciful. We imagine offence has been intended where it was never dreamed of. It constructs entire imaginary histories upon what is often no foundation at all. Even where there is a basis of truth, it builds upon it more than it will bear.
“It magnifies and exaggerates things. It puts the wildest constructions upon innocent actions. It mistakes indifference for intensity. It imagines subtlety where there has only been carelessness. It throws a monstrous significance into a chance phrase, and then broods on it for years, literally years.
“From being fanciful, we pass to being suspicious. Where we do not see phantoms, we are sure they are lying in ambush….
“Our mind is crowded with suspicions. We forget God. We become distracted in prayer. We are hardly able to distinguish between…shadow…and substance. We give shadows the power to harm us, as if they were substances. It is difficult to say whether we grow more intolerable to ourselves, or to those around us.
“From being suspicious we pass to being umbrageous. We grow moody and bitter. We add sulkiness to our suspicions. There is no dealing with us. If an offender begs our pardon, we do not forgive him. We discover some new offence in the very act. He had no right to beg our pardon. He put himself in a position of superiority by doing so. We are angry with him for it. It is just like him!….He should have waited till we made the advances. We will not believe he is sincere. On whichever side men take us, they will find us equally unmanageable. They will meet with nothing but rebuffs.
“Now, what grace, what conceivable Christ-like thing, can grow in such an atmosphere as this?”
It gets worse
Faber goes on to trace brooding resentment all the way to hatred: “Oh, who can set bounds to the unmercifulness of a sensitive man?”
He points out that the initial feeling of resentment is not a sin. It only begins to do damage when we act upon it by “inwardly deliberate thoughts and that brooding which is a proximate occasion of sins against charity, our outwardly, by word, manner, or action.”
So what’s the cure?
As always, it’s Jesus. Faber writes that wounded feelings are “a particularly Christ-like fountain of suffering.” Think of Christ’s interior suffering in Gethsemane.
“He bore our sins; he identified himself with our shames; he felt our shrinkings. Our finest sensitiveness is coarse and blunt compared with his.
“We rudely pressed every one of the quivering keys of his Sacred Heart, and made it utter the low and plaintive notes of a sorrow beyond our understanding. He shrank, like a sensitive plant, from the shame with which we covered him.
“In the other mysteries of the Passion, we have outward pains, external shame, publicity, unkindness, and the desertion of friends; but the suffering of the Agony was [far] above the other mysteries, the keenness of wounded feelings.
“To us, therefore, the model and the consolation in our excess of wounded feeling is that most dear and divine Heart whose inward wound finds words in the Reproaches of Good Friday.”
Getting over it
Of course, even if our minds realize the grace of this “Christ-like fountain of suffering,” our feelings are still hurt, and our heart can be slow to heal.
I hung on to wounded feelings caused by someone not for years, but decades. Little by little through prayer, confession, and turning my mind to Jesus in his interior Agony at Gethsemane, I realized that it’s not about me. Or, rather, it is about me — which is why Jesus took over my hurts, so I don’t have to carry any of them.
Our hurts were heavy only on Calvary. Since then, the light burden of his mercy gives us the freedom we long for — if we are willing to accept it.
P.S. A 5-minute video that reveals a little more about what’s coming up in 2020. Let me know what you think! ♥
Click on the image for an affiliate link if you want your very own copy of Fr. Faber’s book. It also includes chapters on self-deceit, on getting over “the monotony of piety” and the “weariness of well-doing,” how to grow in kindness, and how to prepare well for death. Not a bad book for Lent!