James Hollis has written (In Swamplands of the Soul, New Life in Dismal Places), “To say that I have erred, that I am guilty of bad choices and their hurtful consequences, is not only the beginning of wisdom, but the only path that can ultimately lead to release.” Toward that end, I offer these prayers of confession, as a way of helping make conscious what is true with us all.
01. We try figure it out, make sense of it, comprehend it, and know what’s going on. The way we see it, once we understand how things work, we can work them to our advantage. That’s how it is with everything else in our lives. The Government makes regulations to restrict our behavior and we figure ways to comply with the regulations without changing our behavior. It’s called “beating the system,” and it’s what we do best. But Life is a tough system to beat because nothing works the same way twice. Once we think we “get it,” and devise a system to work the system to our advantage, something comes along to upset our neat formula and remind us that we can’t beat “the house.” In trying to beat the house, we show that we do not understand that we are here to serve and not be served, to give and not receive, to take up our cross and follow the one who is Christ by responding to what is needed in the moment with what we have to offer to the moment. And so, we pray that we might be conscious of what has need of us, and how we might best live in serving a good that is more than our good. Amen! May it be so!
02. We want to grow spiritually, develop our capacity for compassion and grace, deepen our awareness of what needs to be done and do it, without giving up anything on the rest of our schedule. We want to become whole without surrendering our interests or involvements in any of the areas that are important to us. We want to be wise without changing the way we live. We want the comforting, stabilizing, reality of an abiding relationship with Holy Presence, without taking up the task of relationship, doing the work of relationship, making the effort relationship requires—in every moment for the rest of our lives. We seek guidance, but don’t want to do anything differently or be inconvenienced in any way. And we pray for the wherewithal to step beyond the childish orientation of our youth, that we might give way, stand aside, relinquish our agenda, our terms, our ideas of how our lives ought to be, and understand what it means to say, “Not my will, but thine, be done”!
03. We live to have things our way—to the exclusion of every other way. Compromise and concession are terms we avoid at all costs. Getting what we want is the whole point of our lives. It is fine for others to have their needs met, just not at the expense of our own. Sacrificing our goals, aims, purposes, interests and desires for the sake of someone else’s is an idea whose time has not yet come. We have a personal investment in Our Way, and we cannot imagine why we should hand over our hopes and dreams in deference to other hopes and dreams. Yet, in refusing to submit to that which has need of us, we serve values which declare the good of the part over the good of the whole, and fail to recognize a good greater than our good. And so, we pray for vision, wisdom, and compassion required to set self aside in the service of that which truly ought to be, that everyone might be blessed by our presence and the boon might belong to all.
04. We follow the rules to keep from taking chances. We do what we are supposed to do to evade the risk of personal responsibility. We believe what we are told to believe want to be told what we should believe and how we should think to avoid the embarrassment of being wrong about what to think and believe. We have to save face even if it means losing ourselves! We have to look like everyone else even if it means ignoring the rhythms of our own heart and discounting the voice of our own soul. We cannot trust the authority of our own sense of direction, of our own sense of right and wrong, of our own sense of what fits, and what belongs, and what is good, and true, and beautiful. We have to look to see how we must look, and wait to be told what to do. And, in this, we have failed to be true to the truth within, and have not been courageous in the service of creativity and intuition. And so, we pray for vision, wisdom, and compassion required to set self aside in the service of that which truly ought to be, that everyone might be blessed by our presence and the boon might belong to all.