I have experienced many negative emotions over the course of my life, but the one that leaves me with the most bitter taste in my mouth is that of feeling used. I am not a resource or an object to be utilised at the whim of the user. I am a human being, a child made in the image and likeness of God. And I deserve to be respected and treated as such.
Be it through disingenuousness, naivety or just plain old wishful thinking I believed I meant more to that person than I actually did. It hurts. It hurts a lot. And it makes me feel very, very angry and very stupid.
But I guess these things happen hey?
Never mind. Forgive and move on. But just before I do…
It is worth just reflecting on whether any other relationships I have are (in the words of Plato) utilitarian relationships – user relationships. After about 5 seconds reflection on this matter, to my horror, I discovered that most of the relationships I have in my life have some sort of utilitarian aspect to them. Either I am being used or I am the user. That was an unpleasant discovery.
Be it my kids, my husband, my parents, friends, whoever… there is always a risk that I could be using or allowing myself to be used. This is not to say of course that we should not be generous in our time or resources to each other, it is just when that delicate balance of giving and getting become, well, taken for granted I suppose.
A priest told me today how he always asks his marriage prep couples why they want to marry their fiance. 9 times out of 10 he said that the answers were “Because she makes me happy” “Because I feel comfortable with him” “Because he makes me feel ‘whole'”. It was all about what their fiance could do for them, rather than what they could do for their fiance. I’m sure I displayed this exact same utilitarian attitude 16 years ago when I got married. Ha! They’ll learn! Lol!
Remember that disastrous silent retreat I went on last June where the silence drove me to cigarettes? You know – the one where the fire alarm went off all night. Yeah – that one. Well, the one thing that I really remember from it was that Teresa of Avila teaches us that our ‘horizontal’ relationships are credible indicators of the ‘vertical’ relationship we have with God. She tells us that “we cannot know whether or not we love God, although there are strong indications for recognizing that we do love Him; but we can know whether we love our neighbor” – (5th Dwelling Place, Interior Castle).
So if pretty much all of my earthly relationships have a utilitarian element to them, then what does that say about my relationship with God?
Feeling small. Feeling bad.
I guess if I honestly examine my verbal prayer life, it is all “please can You” this and “please can You” that. I just want stuff. I want to feel better. I want so-and-so to be better. I want, I want, I want. My gosh it’s all about me. It reminds me very much of the relationship my children have with me. They are always asking me for stuff! Actually I was having a conversation with a seminarian today in which he told me how he was preparing himself for Fatherhood by getting used to the fact that being a priest, like being a parent, is usually a pretty thankless job with a bunch of ungrateful children. I felt sad about that, but I understood what he meant. It made me think about the last time I had thanked my priest for the wonderful job he does. Have I ever thanked him?
Coupled with that, I never realised how one-sided my relationship with God was. It’s probably because i’m a spoiled princess who expects everybody to adore her. The fact that I am very secure in the knowledge that God does actually adore me does add a little bit of confusion to the mix! But I guess the point is that I should be adoring Him as much as He adores me. He gave up His life for me, even though I didn’t deserve it.
I need to dwell on that fact more.
And the more I dwell on that divine generosity, and the more I let it penetrate every aspect of my being – and doing – the more I will allow it to transform me.
So from now on I will continue to give and not to count the cost (St Ignatius of Loyola) but perhaps I might be a little more discerning about my motives for giving, and the attitude of the receiver.