Some years ago our beloved mutt, Jack, became suddenly ill with what we thought was a cold. We carried him to the veterinarian where he was diagnosed with blastomycosis. Blastomycosis is a nasty, dangerous infection of the lungs, and sweet Jack’s case proved lethal. In grief I asked the vet if there was anything we could have done differently or more quickly, as Jack was apparently healthy one day and terminal the next. The doctor’s answer, all those years ago, has never left me. “Our pets are still wild animals,” he said. “They hide their weaknesses, because in the wild, weakness means death.”
The terrible irony is that by concealing such weaknesses, death is not forestalled, it is guaranteed. And the intervention that would bring life and healing arrives too late. The eons of biological evolution and instinct haven’t been overcome by the mere centuries of domestication.
Humans suffer from the same developmental disorder. We have been conditioned to “survive,” and employ copious camouflaging techniques to hide our shortcomings and limitations. Our fears, defects, and anxieties are masked by bravado, addiction, and carefully crafted facades to keep the “predators” away – to keep everyone away. For if people saw our real internal trouble, it would destroy us. Again, this is a scenario chock full of irony, as our protective mechanisms do not protect us at all. Healing, recovery, and life are the result of being honest about our afflictions – the result of coming clean. Paradoxically, we have to reveal our weaknesses in order to survive them.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” the Apostle James told his congregation. This was in no way an act of wallowing shame. It was counsel to slay the beastly secrets within us, those beasts that rob us of health and well-being. James, I think, was blazing a trail that the great Carl Jung would follow.
Jung understood better than anyone how the human species is driven along by internal instinct and the primeval need to hide our weaknesses. He observed that we will protect our buried secrets at almost any cost, to the point of being pathological, and the only to achieve a measure of wholeness was to disgorge all our internal “invisible toxins” that will only continue to percolate and kill us from within. Per Jung, every person needs the experience of “unprejudiced objectivity:” A place or person who can hear the deep confessions of the soul and not condemn or be repelled by these confessions. Every person needs the open arms of genuine acceptance, for that is the only place that people can begin to be honest.
So here is a worthy, yea, godly vocation for people and groups of faith: Be a safe place. Create that welcoming space where people can confess their hurts, weaknesses, and suffering without fear of reprisal, denunciation, or shame. Then, you will “bring life to those who find you, and healing to the whole person.”