Admitting mistakes is a ‘downer’ that we need

To the editor:

“Sin is the failure to be joyful.” These words, from the minister who presided at my mother’s memorial service, were meant to comfort me when I was feeling relief that Mom’s unhappy confinement in a stroke-impaired body was finally over, and that her spirit was free to soar. But the minister’s words have haunted me for over 20 years because I am not often joyful. The problems that I see in our world can overwhelm me, particularly when I realize how much I am contributing to them.

The letters to the editor of this paper are often about religion, and seldom are they uplifting, loving and kind. Faith should compel believers to “Make a joyful noise,” to express gratitude for all we have been given in this world and to live in harmony with each other. Faith is a pathway to God that is more likely to attract followers when it encourages hope and service rather than fear and criticism.

At times, I have known the sort of joy Terry Tempest Williams calls “ecstasy without adrenaline.” The feeling of humble, reverent gratitude that blesses my heart when it is open to beauty has also been described as “the peace that passes all understanding,” “the sense of wonder,” and “grace.” One of the challenges of our humanity is to celebrate the varieties of “religious” experience rather than to try to convince each other of the superiority of one particular pathway to God.

I think bouts of ecstatic joy are rare and short-lived because we realize, when we glimpse our place in creation, that we are connected to everyone and everything else. This connection involves responsibility, and therein lies the rub. We make choices every day that harm our fellow travelers.

We know we should change our ways, but change is hard. It is much easier to see faults in other people, especially if we choose news sources that feed our fear and anger, but it’s a bad habit that robs us of joy. Too long we have fed that part of us that likes to fight, and it has prevented us from looking at ourselves in the mirror. Admitting our own mistakes is also a “downer” unless we accept forgiveness and resolve to “go and sin no more.” Toward this, so help me, God.