Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rebellion, resignation, consent

The following is from my favorite little book Interior Freedom, and I may have shared these quotes before but I'm not sorry because they're so wonderful!! I was re-reading this section again and it describes so well my interior state over the last year or so. What I especially love about this book is that I think its wisdom can be applicable to anyone at any stage and going through any trial.

Fr. Philippe's words + my commentary (I added the bold too), from pp. 29-31:

When we are faced with things that we find unpleasant or consider negative, in ourselves or in our situations, there are three possible attitudes.

For me, the unpleasant situation is obviously IF...

The first is rebellion. For example, we do not accept ourselves as we are; we rebel against God who made us like this, against life that has permitted this or that event, against society, and the like. True, rebellion is not always negative - it may be an instinctive and necessary reaction in certain situations of desperate suffering; then it is a healthy reaction, provided that we do not remain fixated on it. Rebellion can also be positive as the rejection of an unacceptable situation, against which one takes action, for just motives, and using legitimate and proportionate means.

Seeking moral treatment for the underlying causes of IF fits here, I think, because not being able to conceive is an "unacceptable situation" - a lack of health and proper functioning of the body - and I like his explanation of a "positive rebellion" that takes action against things that aren't right.

What we are considering here, however, is rebellion as the rejection of reality. That is often our first, spontaneous reaction to difficulty or suffering. But it has never solved anything. ... It is the source of despair, violence, and resentment.

The image I get when thinking of "rebellion as the rejection of reality" is a toddler having a temper tantrum, flailing her limbs and screaming bloody murder because something in her world isn't going the way she wants it to. Yep, definitely been there in the IF journey, railing and screaming (sometimes quite literally) against this seemingly immobile mountain of reality that is blocking my path to motherhood. And yes, it never seems to accomplish much to get all red in the face, except exhaustion and a weary heart. Darn you reality...

Rebellion may be followed by resignation. We realize we cannot change this situation...and end up by resigning ourselves. Resignation may represent a certain degree of progress beyond rebellion, in the sense that it leads to a less aggressive and more realistic approach. But it is not enough. It may be a virtue for philosophers, but it is not a Christian virtue, since it doesn't include hope. Resignation is a declaration of powerlessness that goes no further. It may be a necessary stage, but if one stops there it is also sterile.

Yep, been there too. Resignation = saying "harumph" and sitting back with my arms crossed over my chest and a stony expression on my face. "Fine, be that way," I tell God/reality/my body/life. "I don't care," I lie. "I'll just suffer through it" while I'm seething inside, consumed with anger at the way things are. 

Or resignation is just going numb, hiding my heart far enough away and steeling it against all feeling because it's too painful to feel and hurt.

Resignation doesn't include hope...that sounds about right. Hope is a dangerous virtue to have, because right around the corner could be disappointment, but it's impossible to live without it (I think). 

The attitude to aim for is consent [elsewhere he uses "acceptance" in the same way]. Compared with resignation, consent leads to a completely different interior attitude. We say yes to a reality we initially saw as negative, because we realize that something positive may arise from it. This hints at hope.

This stopped me in my tracks because I could relate so well to this. Resignation and consent might look similar on the outside - you're not blustery and might seem calm - but the interior attitude is completely different. Consent says "yes" to reality - accepts it for what it is, painful as it is - and takes the tremendous leap of hope and faith to believe that maybe it's not a total loss. Maybe - I love how he uses the word "may" - just maybe, something positive can be gained from this experience I saw earlier as wholly negative. That "movement" looks so tiny but I believe it is HUGE! I think that's the first step toward having peace about a situation and being able to live with it instead of it totally dominating your every waking moment. 

The ultimate different between resignation and consent is that with consent, even though the objective reality remains the same, the attitude of our hearts is very different. They already contain the virtues of faith, hope, and love in embryo, so to speak.

Beautiful. I want that - the mustard seed of faith.

Because of this presence of faith, hope, and love, consent acquires great value, scope, and fruitfulness. For wherever faith, hope, or love are, openness to God's grace, acceptance of grace, and, sooner or later, the positive effects of grace are necessarily present. Where grace is accepted, it is never in vain, but always extraordinarily fruitful.

I love this so much. I want this! The fruitfulness of faith, hope, and love, present "in embryo" in a single act of consenting to my childlessness instead of rebelling against reality or resigning myself without hope. There's so much truth packed into these words - so much that needs unpacked in my own heart and life. But I love it because it gives me a "road map" of sorts, where I'd like to head. From rebellion to resignation to fruitful consent. To say "yes" to all that is given to me, the good and the bad, knowing that from the bad can still come good because God is just that powerful. To know that my childlessness is not a total loss but can be the seedbed of something extraordinarily powerful and grace-filled, if I'm willing to say "yes."

I think I'm making progress on that road to consent. At the least, I'm more and more conscious of the ways God's helping me to grow through this experience, which I think is definitely a fruit of the suffering. And it's getting easier (although still quite hard) to say "okay, I trust you God" with our future children, if there are any. I've definitely experienced a peace from that, from accepting that I'm fertility-challenged (ha ha) and not the kind of woman that gets pregnant easily, and then intentionally and daily placing my desires for motherhood in God's care and really making an effort to leave them there and go about my life cheerfully. I'm seeing some good results from this although it is HARD!!

p.s. Seriously, get this book, everyone =) Interior Freedom by Fr. Jacques Philippe It's been the single most life-changing book I've read while going through IF - even though he never once directly talks about infertility! It's just about suffering well, which I think comes in handy =)



  1. I second that this book is a must read for everyone! I think I have those entire pages highlighted in my book as well, and I loved reading through your perspective on it, too. Ooh! I wish we could do an Interior Freedom book study! My coffee shop or yours? ;)

  2. I saw this book at the basilica and got the story of a soul instead...this will be the next I get! I love this reflection.

  3. I'm happy for the peace I feel in your words, thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thank you. I just finished "Time for God" this author. I think I need to add Interior Freedom to my list to read next!

  5. Yes to all of this! It so perfectly describes the cycle of suffering we IFs experience. It's like I wrote the commentary myself! Except you write much more eloquently. :) Thank you for this great reflection!