Brokenness: lacking wholeness

I’m unsure whether the term ‘brokenness’ is widely used in religious circles, psychological circles or it is a word that has become part of our mainstream lexicon. Regardless of the origin or the most widely used context, the state of brokenness affect us all whether we are broken ourselves or affected by the brokenness of others.

In “The Life God Blesses- Weathering the Storms of Life that Threaten the Soul”, Gordon MacDonald speaks about looking into the centre of our souls and facing the inadequacies there. This usually takes place during difficult times in our lives which MacDonald describes as ‘disruptive moments’-unanticipated events which we would mostly choose to avoid if possible. Disruptive moments of crisis are often associated with pain and inconvenience, failure and humiliation. MacDonald asserts that it is during these times that we are most receptive to the distressing truths about ourselves and the world.

It is during these times too that we need to make a choice. MacDonald believes that we can try and deny or avoid the pain or we can accept the necessity of walking straight though it until the end. But, he feels, that denying or avoiding the pain can lead to emptiness and is characterized by denial, defensiveness, blaming and escape whereas accepting the necessity of the pain and working through it offers unimagined growth and depth.

Tim and Kathy Keller in their book, “The Meaning of Marriage” talk about the difficulty with seeing our own self-centeredness as a result of our ‘woundedness’. The Kellers believe that woundedness is compounded self-doubt and guilt, resentment and disillusionment. If selfish behaviour is pointed out, the response may be, “Maybe, but you don’t know what it’s like”. The wounds justify the behaviour. The woundedness makes people minimize their own selfishness. But they also talk about how only we have complete access to our own selfishness and only we have complete responsibility for it. The principle that needs to be put into practice is not to think less or more of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less.

Brennan Manning in “The Ragamuffin Gospel” explains how Christians believe that justification by grace through faith means that we know that we are accepted by God as we are. When we have accepted this to be true in both our heads and our hearts, then we can accept ourselves. Manning believes that the more fully we accept ourselves, the more successfully we begin to grow because love is a far better motivator than threat or pressure. Self-acceptance also means we have less need for the acceptance of others because we have an inner sense of security. We are no longer preoccupied with being powerful or popular and we no longer fear criticism because we accept the reality of our human limitations. It means that we feel less pressure to please others because being true to ourselves brings lasting peace. He also believes that the way we see others is often the way we see ourselves. And that if we have made peace with our flawed humanity and embraced our ragamuffin identity, then we are able to tolerate in others what was previously unacceptable in ourselves.

This concept of brokenness or woundedness is one that I have been wrestling with. And the pain that must be processed in order to have a chance of wholeness. At times, self-absorption and selfishness dominate, but the hope is that the process will lead to growth and depth, not so that I will feel superior or self-righteous, but so that I can be more gentle, gracious and compassionate. And that the message so simply put by Brennan Manning would be, “Yes ragamuffin, I understand, I’ve been there too”

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