Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

We all like consistency between our thoughts and our actions. It is as though we have a map to a goal and we are following it. When we lose that consistency, we feel lost, distressed, and uncomfortable on account of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, a condition that becomes worse in proportion to the meaning and importance of those thoughts and actions. This state of discomfort is actually a gift that under the most important of circumstances the Fathers would refer to as pangs of conscience. Those with a refined conscience for whom living in accord with God’s will is highly … [Read more...]

Religiosity, Christianity, and Forgiveness

In psychological literature, religion and spirituality are usually contrasted as the institutional and subjective aspects of individuals’ search for the sacred. Religion, in particular, is often defined by a particular constellation of feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors that accompany this sacred search and that are validated and supported by an identifiable group of people. So a Christian who feels gratitude towards God, thinks about Scripture, experiences God’s nearness, and goes to Church in ways that are shared with others in that Christians group could be called religious. One … [Read more...]

Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

For those of us who speak without thinking and spout off when we are irritated, the sobering words of our Lord in Matthew 5:22 are often dismissed. In today’s world, words uttered in anger may be considered to be a slight offense that can be justified by the circumstances. In our own mind, we may afterwards indulge in such justifications in which our focus remains riveted not on what has come out of our mouths, but on what the other person has said or done to us. “Well, I did get angry, but he was accusing me of something I didn’t do,” or “He had it coming to him. He didn’t recognize my hard … [Read more...]

Relationships and Forgiveness

Perhaps our own experience provides us with evidence concerning the next antecedent to forgiveness: the nature of our relationship with another person. Our relationship with the one who has offended us usually does influence our willingness to forgive the offense and the offender. When we are involved in a committed relationship with another person, the sting of the offense may be more pronounced, but often our willingness to forgive is determined by the quality and history of the relationship that enable us to forgive more readily. Riek and Mania concluded similarly in writing, “Commitment … [Read more...]

The Flexibility of Righteousness

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. One of the first lessons we are taught as children is that some things are right and other things are wrong. There are rules to follow at home. There are rules to learn in school. There are rules for the games we play. There are rules for just about everything. And if we obey the rules, we can become good little boys and girls. We can do well in school. We can win the game. And so we all learn to be very good at the rules. That’s … [Read more...]

Break the Least of These Commandments

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Human beings are marvelously complex. In the myriad of situations in which we find ourselves, with the multitude of people with whom we interact, we can respond in thought, word, and deed in a variety of ways with a range spanning from the darkest hell to the brightest heaven. Choices confront us at every moment and the decisions we make determine the … [Read more...]

Insomnia and Talking to Oneself

Whenever we encounter difficulties in life or whenever some unexpected suffering comes our way, our natural instinct is to find an immediate escape from that difficulty or suffering. When such an escape is not readily available or manifest to us, we may become despondent or begin to think the worst, which in psychological terms is known as catastrophizing. We can tell we’re doing this by the nature of our interior dialogue that we have with ourselves. That private conversation can aggravate an existent problem and generate new ones. In his dissertation, “Treating Insomnia-A Cognitive … [Read more...]

Identifying and Resolving Dysfunctional Cognitions

The maxim “our thoughts determine our lives” is central to our self-understanding as well as our ability to understand the choices we make each day. Thoughts are the interpretive tool through which we understand ourselves, others, and the circumstances of daily life. When these thoughts are good and wholesome, we are able to make critical decisions in the workplace, assist family members, and order our life according to the values by which we have consciously chosen to live. However, when these cognitions are harmful, our perceptions of self, others, and our environment become distorted which … [Read more...]

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil

For the Church Fathers, the relationship between the Gospel of Christ and the Law of Moses could be likened to the distinction between the work of a trainer or a pedagogue on the one hand and the work of someone who initiates someone into a mystery or a mystagogue on the other. The first directs the body to do this or that. The second illumines the mind to see clearly what was formerly hidden. Thus, Saint Basil the Great would say that “as the law forbids evil deeds, the Gospel does so with well hidden passions” (Initium Morialum, PG 31.761). If we were to put it in contemporary language, we … [Read more...]

The Power of Activity After a Sleepless Night

In the proverbs of Solomon, it is written, “as the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed” (24:16). Those with insomnia, however, are not necessarily slothful. And in fact, many of those struggling with this nightly affliction will get out of their beds and do something profitable when they can’t sleep, rather than turning like a door on its hinges, thus demonstrating not sloth, but vigor and vigilance while others sleep. And yet after a sleep-deprived night, when we feel tired and find ourselves nodding off, doesn’t it make sense to go to take it easy and not over … [Read more...]