Years ago, I worked with a man who had come to the spiritual path as a way of escaping his sins.
What those sins were, he would not say. But it was clear to me that his situation was serious, that he had deep regrets, and that he felt his life would be completely changed if he came clean. I don't know if that meant that relationships would be damaged, that money would change hands, that there would be prison time, or all three. Whatever it was, it was clear that no one knew, even his wife, and that, to him, what he had done was so terrible he didn't think he could tell anyone without it having irreparable consequences.
We were attending the same program and over the course of a year got to know each other pretty well. He kept asking me theoretical questions that gave me a pretty good idea of what he was dealing with, but he never told me the full story. What became clear over a period of several months is that he had felt that Jesus could save him, but that Christianity had not eased his pain. Now he had determined that if he could become enlightened, he could somehow escape having to deal with this big issue in his life.
I've lost track of him; I don't know if he was ever able to come clean. But the point is that this path, this way of looking at and working with the world, is not an escape route. It's not a way around our issues. Instead, it requires the courage to fully confess, at least to ourselves, the demons that burden us, to see our flaws in full relief.
This isn't easy, and it isn't fun. I don't know many people who have been able to be completely honest with themselves about their stuff. I know I haven't. There are still things that I try to avoid, stories that I'm just not ready to hear.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. As we do, we find that life begins to open up to us. We find that our suffering lessens. We find that as we discover and disclose our flaws, it becomes easier to connect with other people. We find that no matter how grave we may think our sins to be, we can almost always find at least one person who is dealing with the same thing.
And our lives begin to fill with joy, as we realize the gifts our difficulties bring.
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