Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Integrity and darkness

Today, I got a brilliant email question from a clerical friend, which arose from a note I sent him. As I wrote, I thought, 'Blog post!'

So here goes:

By the way, why does integrity involve seeing the dark side too?

*Tilts head, wondering where to begin*

If we think of integrity as wholeness, then by definition, it has to encompass everything. It doesn't mean integrity has to EXPRESS everything at all times, but one needs to know everything intimately and *integrate* it.

I'm going to use myself as an example because it's what I know best - I'm not saying I'm the only one like this or that I'm better, it's just that I live in my own skin and can best explain it that way.

Yesterday, when I asked you [that question], I asked you in full awareness of the fact that sometimes, my triggers with men and kids are hair triggers and might well be wrong. I can't remember if I made it explicit, but I hope I did - and I consider that tendency part of my darkness. Now, I don't ever NEED to express that hair trigger by jumping up and accusing someone - in fact, my being aware of it and allowing it to be what it is makes it less likely that I will.

On a deeper level, I know what my darkest fantasies are - and they're not covered by BDSM, LOL. My darkest fantasies involve what I would do to every member of the Taliban if I got my hands on them, or as I said to Nick once, "Do you KNOW what I would do to protect a child?" I also know that there are occasions, like last November, where a dark night of the soul is SO dark, I have considered suicide - and that coming back from that, recommitting to being here can be very difficult.

But it's only through KNOWING those fantasies and that dark emotional landscape intimately, knowing that THAT darkness is me as much as my light; acknowledging it and loving it enough to integrate it, rather than exile it, that I can actually create a solid foundation built on truth and love and what I AM - not a shaky foundation, a lie based on what I think I should be or others think I should be or some limited concept of a relationship with God.

It's only through that absolute truth/honesty that I can have a real relationship with God or anyone else.

I can't hide that darkness or eradicate it or imprison it: it will always leak out. I see it in myself and - to use our common landscape - I see it leaking everywhere in church and Church - because so many see a relationship with God as one where they have to be a 'Procrustean bed' good, rather than whole. Running from our darkness, repressing it, makes us rigid, unable to see clearly, unable to live. It makes us...one-dimensional; a shadow of what God dreamt and meant for us to be.

Good, if it doesn't emerge from the whole, is a self-serving lie: it is a quest for approval; it is a need to feel good about oneself; it is a way of denying one's darkness. Me, me, me. Only when it arises from the whole can it be goodness for goodness' sake, with no agenda or need attached.

If I embrace the dark, it becomes available to me with all its gifts: empathy and the ability to sit with anyone as they struggle through any darkness; compassion; it gives me depth, even as I can be wild, chaotic and fiery*; it gives me nuance and texture; it affords me myriad ways to deal with anything life brings my way; it allows me to trust God through the most difficult of times; it allows me to love wholly, deeply and in all sorts of ways (e.g., unresolved grief makes us numb/hardens us) through all sorts of things. It gives my relationships, my life, authenticity, depth, colour. It also means that I'm in control of HOW the darkness is expressed: as a thread in a more complex response, to strengthen/nuance it or in cases where necessary, on its own.

If I integrate everything, move towards wholeness, it makes me utterly trustworthy; a sanctuary; a clear, strong vessel for God to fill. There is nothing hidden, no lies to make me weak. I can hold any space and anything God chooses to pour through me.

Do I manage it? Maybe sometimes, if I'm lucky. But God created an alive, diverse universe moving towards dynamic equilibrium. It's about relationship and process. And knowing that we're all in process and all of life is holy ground...

...well, that's integrity too. Why?

Because it's what's real.

*Three adjectives Ari used for me last night. Integrity is also giving credit where credit is due. :-)


The world is my cloister said...

This post has caught my curiosity because I would like to see the rest of this conversation. I am nosey! What prompted the question? Knowing your darkness being a part of spiritual journey is part of much of John of the Cross and, more recently, Mother Teresa. Could they form a later part of this discussion?

Anonymous said...

I had to read this several times before I was able to write a comment on it. A lot of thinking ensued, but in the end: so much of this makes a lot of sense, and thank you for printing it here. Further parts of the conversation would indeed be interesting, at which point I agree with 'the world is my cloister' - however, seeing you face to face will also communicate a lot, as the NF will often communicate by means other than words.