Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2003
Pouring forth praise smothers gossip
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
The more we praise the less we slander, gossip or pass judgment.
The main reason our faith asks us to constantly render glory to God is that the more we praise the less we slander, gossip or pass judgment. And, in the end, overcoming bitterness and violence, is the greatest spiritual hurdle of all. Much tougher than the sixth commandment is the fifth ("Thou shalt not kill"). As Henri Nouwen used to say, we're killing each other all the time. Nobody is shot by a gun who isn't first shot by a word, and nobody is shot by a word who isn't first shot by a thought. Our thoughts are too frequently murderous and soon enough get expressed in our words: "Who does he think he is!" "What a hypocrite!"
Underneath those comments, driving that bitterness, is a not-so-subtle anxiety and hurt: "What about me? Who's noticing me? Who's giving anything to me?" I say this sympathetically because it's not easy to not be anxious in this way, especially for the young, and it's not easy, after the neuroses of mid-life and beyond, to not be bitter or not feel cheated. For both the young and the old, it's hard to simply say to someone else, God included, "glory be to you" and really mean it.
We're made in God's image, have a divine fire in us that over-charges us for this world, and live lives of quiet desperation. That desperation, all too often, expresses itself in negative, bitter and even murderous judgments because the divine in us has been ignored and we feel rage about this slight. But that's precisely why daily, hourly, we need to give glory to God, to pray a doxology. Only by focusing ourselves on the real centre of the universe can we displace ourselves from that centre.
When St. Paul begins his epistles, he usually does so in a rapture of praise: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whose great mercy we all drink!" That isn't a throwaway opening, it's a key part of the main lesson: Only by praising something beyond ourselves do we save ourselves from bitterness.
All the great spiritual writers do the same: They won't write for long, no matter how bitter or difficult the topic, before they insert some kind of doxology: "Glory be to the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit." They know a deep secret: Only praise saves us from bitterness and only by blessing others do we save ourselves from cursing them.
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