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14 March 2003 @ 01:42 am
Self-denial  
I've been giving some thought tonight to the subject of self-denial. Specifically, small self-denials.

[An aside: I started to say that I'd been 'contemplating' the subject. But ever since I began to read and study about contemplative prayer, I find I have a hard time using the word 'contemplate' without immediately applying it mentally to contemplation. (smile)]

I'm actually in favor of self-denial. Those who know me well might scoff (I can even hear it, frankly), but I do believe in it.

We live in a modern world where it's clearly out of fashion to ever willing deny ourselves anything. We want constant gratification.

More, we want instant gratification. We're not even willing to make the small concession of waiting to be gratified. (smile)

So I was thinking about various forms of small self-denials...

For example, it's common to have this expectation that we need the constant companionship -- and support -- of our fellow man. We have this need to be continually succored.

Again, I stress that this is an expectation. Because it is, we don't tend to fully appreciate the gift of human contact and interaction because we take it as a daily given.

We have need -- therefore someone else should be there to supply our need.

How incredibly selfish this is. How ridiculously unrealistic. In other words, we think the world should drop everything and run to satisfy our personal whims.

It might seem like a small thing. A truly small form of self-denial. But what if we were to accept the fact that we must be alone at times?

What if we were to accept this even during difficult times? What if we didn't automatically feel a need to seek the comfort of another person? What if we were to realize that we don't always need to share our personal burdens with others?

How often do we feel hurt or angry when someone close to us fails us in some small way? Suddenly they haven't been a good friend to us. We're selfish enough to believe they should always 'be there' for us.

It's natural, I suppose, for us to struggle with our focus in life. I imagine it is a given that each of us is -- at least to some degree -- the 'center' of our own universe. It's easy to see how we can become self-absorbed.

I'm no different, of course. I struggle and struggle with a desire to be closer to others. With wanting to simply have a conversation whenever I wish. With feeling a constant need to share myself -- and to have someone share themselves with me in return.

How difficult would it be for us to practice a form of self-denial? To say, "I'm ______ (fill in the blank: tired, sad, lonely, worried, etc.), but I'll suck it up. I'm going to offer this small self-denial to God." (Or if not to do it as an offering, to determine to do it for personal growth.)

I think it's healthy to try to view what might be the more mundane aspects of day-to-day life and attempt to apply self-denial in small doses.

Not every offering to the Lord has to be profound. Not every attempt at self-improvement needs to be a major life change.

[An aside: Again, this is in line with my belief that men and women often rise to the occasion when there's something large to tackle -- but they fail when there's less at stake...]

I think we often fail at change, for example, because we expect such big changes. I believe change is often best when it happens in small ways. A tiny change added to another tiny change.

I've continued to deal with my own tendency to be maudlin, for example. In the past I feel my moroseness has been a key factor in my erratic behaviors (which has including occasions of drinking to excess).

It's so easy to feel sorry for myself. To allow myself to feel depressed (for any number of reasons that I needn't enumerate here).

How much more difficult to embrace my small daily pains -- and find a way to rise above self-indulgence.

Prayer, certainly, is often a sure way to help overcome a tendency for self-centeredness. I continue to favor the concept of small dedications to the Lord: 'I felt anger at another and managed to avoid displaying it. (I offer this tiny moment of time and the denial of my self-interest to You, oh Lord.)'

Or, if one is not religious-minded, to practice this same restraint for the recognized good of personal growth -- another stepping stone on the road to maturity.

Small self-denials are plentiful if we're looking for them. They aren't news-worthy. They're not gold-plated. No one would be impressed if we made a list of these to share. They don't give us any huge sense of satisfaction to perform, either. Which might be why they're so easy to overlook or ignore...

But our smallest efforts matter to Him. And I believe they might even be more meaningful to each of us, in the long run.

How easy to practice self-denials during Lent. How much harder to practice self-denials every day of our lives...

We're goal-oriented. We like to set a goal and strive to reach it. We enjoy reaching the goal. We like the sense of satisfaction for a job well done.

I reflect like this constantly. But I want to make a greater effort to put these reflections down. I've neglected my writing...

I'd like to add more small self-denials into my daily life.

In denying myself, I'm better able to elevate Him.

In denying myself, I'm better able to put a focus on the needs of others.
 
 
Mood: contemplativeintrospective
Music: "Salve Regina"
 
 
 
+Seraphimseraphimsigrist on March 14th, 2003 07:35 am (UTC)
small+ a question on using your reflection
Thanks for this. I do think our freedom is
very limited and that it is in the small
things that we can become free...
it occurs to me that a denial of human
contact for a priest is a tricky thing,
recall Fr Schmemann's admonition "dont
allow your monasticism get between you and
other people" ,this was before I took monastic
vows as mostly celibate priests in the east do,
but and I think he was more reassuring than
admonishing me...
But when one is lonely it can also be a small
denial of what is not available. (like saying
I will not get a beer from the fridge when
there is no beer there) Is it self denial
to refuse what is not possible anyway at the
moment? I suppose one could get fancy and say
well it is accepting as my free choice the
fact that no friends are available just now
(and there is no beer in the fridge )...
maybe mostly we are not allowed the selfindulgence
of knowing to what extent our denials are
necessity and to what extent offering...

thinking along with yours...and now a question,
I have been collecting these days (just a
little play on live journal nothing serious)
a few reflections from friends to make a second
anthology entry to what I am, of course it being
but live journal entries and a kind of play,
calling a "Book of Reflection" you can see the
first stage of it on my journal some days back
or at, I made it its own page, reflectionbook.

Anyway could I use an excerpt from this? or of course
some other paragraph or two...for the second part
which I hope to put out in a few days?
+Seraphim,

kyrie_eleison_7 on March 14th, 2003 09:42 am (UTC)
Hey, father! :-)

I know how it is to struggle...but listen, keep doin' it. I promise, it will be so woth it when it's all done and set when Christ returns to this evil world...and Satan will have NO SAY over what you do 100% and will NEVER be able to tempt you again...cause he will be too busy runnin' from all the seraphims and cherubs. :-)

~J-MAN~
+Seraphim: photoseraphimsigrist on March 22nd, 2003 10:22 pm (UTC)
MARCH 23rd !!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FATHER !
(information from livejournal.com/portal which gives
friends birthdays)
May you have renewal and joy in your ministry and in
your heart today in in the days to come,
your brother
+Seraphim Joseph Sigrist.
robertstheology on April 30th, 2003 08:01 pm (UTC)
Self-denial
A lapsed Catholic since 1976, but for Lent
this year I fasted from television. I have
grown to love silence. This morning I began
what I hope will be daily early morning
meditation and prayer.