Honestly, we resort to all kinds of measures in avoiding situations where we feel uncomfortable. While the circumstances that trigger discomfort might be different for each one of us, the reasons why we feel this discomfort originate from the same place within each one of us. Merriam-Webster defines discomfort as: “distress, grief, mental or physical uneasiness.” So why do we feel distress and grief? It’s hard to go there. That’s why we avoid it in the first place.
A productive start might be looking within ourselves rather than outside of ourselves. My temptation is to fall into the belief that something or someone “makes me feel uncomfortable.” In reality, nothing is making us feel uncomfortable; our feelings are self-generated. They are our own emotions. And when we explore our own emotions, it can get pretty scary. It is not unlike a very risky mining exploration, where we venture deep into the core of our being to discover the truth of why we feel the way we do.
And we cannot do it alone. We need God’s help. Sure, there are many resources available that address emotional health and well-being, but they fall desperately short of the wisdom, guidance, forgiveness, mercy, healing, and unconditional love that only Our Lord can abundantly provide. As a recovering alcoholic and someone who struggles with panic disorder, I cannot emphasize enough the value of counseling and therapy. But I need the help of the One who knows me best – the One who created me – to guide me on the journey to the center of my being, where I discover Truth. He is the Only One who can lead me to the Truth, because He is Truth.
I can speak to this discovery because I have experienced it, and continue to experience it. With Our Lord’s help, who whispers to my soul from the Blessed Sacrament when I am in Adoration, through honest examinations of conscience, and through frequent participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I am able to uncover the reasons why I feel discomfort – why I am not at peace.
Going out on a limb here, but my guess is that the reason why most of us avoid situations where we feel uncomfortable, avert our gaze, or even self-medicate or anesthetize ourselves to get us through particular circumstances, is because at the very core of our being, we are feeling shame in varying degrees. And while feelings are not necessarily good or bad, feeling shame (not to be confused with guilt, which is fodder for another blog post), distorts the truth – about ourselves, about each other, and about Our Lord.
Shame has a way of sneaking up on us, affecting our relationships with others and limiting our potential in all that God has designed us to be. It locks us into ourselves and over time, locks God out. We not only avoid situations and people that make us feel uncomfortable, we avoid God. Thankfully, He has the key to open up our hearts and let Him in!
Here is a prayer by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman that asks for God’s help in enlightening us to the Truth:
O my God, I confess that Thou canst enlighten my darkness. I confess that Thou alone canst. I wish my darkness to be enlightened. I do not know whether Thou wilt: but that Thou canst and that I wish, are sufficient reasons for me to ask, what Thou at least hast not forbidden my asking. I hereby promise that by Your grace which I am asking, I will embrace whatever I at length feel certain is the truth, if ever I come to be certain. And by Your grace I will guard against all self-deceit which may lead me to take what nature would have, rather than what reason approves. Amen.
::DeeAnn Smith is a wife, mother of five children, and host of the radio program “It’s Up to Us!” about Catholic women who live and lead with faith, which can be heard on Relevant Radio 970 in Austin, Texas. She is professional mediator with a masters degree concentration in conflict resolution. DeeAnn is also a facilitator for ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women), a Catholic educational program for women that addresses the most important issues of our time.::