The Path of Transformation

There is an oft used phrase in EFT, an attachment based approach to healing marital distress, “catching bullets”. I use this phrase in my counseling sessions with couples to help them (and ourselves) work on not being reactive to their partners negative comments. This helps couples learn to stay out of, stop or slow down getting into a fight cycle. This takes an amazing amount of restraint and self control and one most distressed couples find very difficult to do. It is very challenging to manage our impulse to self protect when we are being criticized, attacked or generally on the receptive end of someone’s fear and hate. The reason it is especially difficult in marital or love relationships is because this is the person we expect to love us, to be there for us, to understand us, cherish us, and certainly not criticize or attack us. We feel betrayed by the one we have trusted the most.

A powerful example of “catching bullets” is seeing the work of Jesus on the Cross. Richard Rohr says this:

“The significance of Jesus’ wounded body is his deliberate and conscious holding of the pain of the world and refusing to send it elsewhere. The wounds were not necessary to convince God that we were lovable; the wounds are to convince us of the path and the price of transformation. They are what will happen to you if you face and hold sin in compassion instead of projecting it in hatred. Jesus’ wounded body is an icon for what we are all doing to one another and to the world.”

This is a powerful image (what an icon is) of love, one that will change marriages, and the world. I hope you will ponder and reflect on this, that Jesus shows us a way to follow, a way to be, by “holding one another’s pain” and “face and hold sin in compassion instead of projecting it in hatred”. This changes everything in human relationships. I see it everyday in couples who are learning to see that their partner’s angry or rejecting comments are more than bullets being fired to hurt and wound and by refusing to send it back, the door is opened to reconciliation.

Considering Sin

This is the week of Easter, what is sometimes referred to as Passion or Holy Week. It is when Christians remember in a variety of ways Jesus' death on the Cross, our Lord's answer to the problem sin. It is fitting that last week the Vatican released an expansion of the seven deadly sins ( that reflect our technological and scientific advancements like genetic manipulation or ruining the environment. It is a good time to reflect on and consider what sin is.

In one of the readings my wife Carolyn is doing for her daily devotional, something she is admirably faithful about, she commented on a sentence that struck her: "…all sin is, at its root, a refusal to love." (Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton). In today's relativistic, postmodern world where like trash, one person's sin may be another person's virtue, I wonder if "sin" is even a word that has any meaning. Significantly and thankfully, I am apparently wrong. According to Ellison Research ( 87% of Americans, whether religiously involved or not, believe in the concept of sin defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective." In a list of thirty behaviors and activities ranked as sinful, adultery tops the list with 81% agreement. I wonder what kind of list would be formulated when sin is defined as a refusal to love instead of something that is considered morally wrong. I am afraid for me it would be a very long list of daily offenses.

I believe most of us think that we would never refuse to love. How could we imagine doing such a thing? It is not too difficult for me to think of myself as someone who can and has sinned but I do not like considering myself as someone who refuses to love. This makes me question what love is. It raises questions like what does refusing to love look like. When and where am I refusing to love? How do I know if I truly loving someone? What does refusing to love have to do with genetic manipulation or even adultery? If I am willing to love does that make me free from sinning?

The Bible tells us that Jesus' death on the Cross is God's love in action (John 3:16). It tells us that God is love and that Jesus is the perfect picture of love (1 John 3:16). And this same verse tell us what our love needs to look like, being willing to give up our lives for one another. This should sound familiar; this is what Jesus did for us on the Cross. Apparently, we are to do the same thing for each other. The root of sin, then is being unwilling to put others first. How simple and how difficult this is.