For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about brokenness a lot of late. Specifically, it’s been hitting home that awareness of brokenness is, on its own, not a sufficient defense against it. I used to believe that awareness of the darkness within us, the brokenness, would shield us from its effects, but its become quite clear to me that that is not the case.
I do still think that awareness of brokenness is important, and indeed a necessary first step. But as with every dark part of ourselves that we become aware of, we must then choose to both resist it and embrace it–and this is very difficult.
Let me be clear: resisting brokenness does not mean pushing it down or suppressing it. Such strategies may work in the short-term, but anything suppressed will always come back with threefold force–or find some wily away around our inner defences. What resisting means is more a recognition of what choices are motivated by, or lead to brokenness, and the active decision to make choices that aren’t motivated by brokenness and lead to love instead.
Embracing brokenness is harder to explain because it’s something I know how to do, but don’t really know how to teach others how to do. It’s a recognition, at a very basic level, that brokenness is not something external or sentient, but internal and a part of us–but that the very fact that it is internal means its all the more seductive and dangerous because resisting it is resisting a part of ourselves. It is also a recognition that while brokenness leads to a number of decisions, events, and traits we resent and wish to avoid, it is also at the same time an integral part of ourselves without which we are incomplete. That last recognition is the most difficult and yet it is often that less step, of recognizing that it is somehow an integral part of ourselves in some way we do not necessarily understand that gives us the power over the brokenness rather than letting it have power over us.
Now, the fact is, that despite all our best intentions, we will ultimately encounter brokenness both in ourselves and in the people around us. When we encounter brokenness in ourselves, we must first acknowledge it and take responsibility, but focus on guilt rather than shame (ie. I did something bad rather than I am bad). The next step is to forgive ourselves, to say “I did this bad thing, but that does not make me a bad person, and I will try to avoid doing it again in the future. The final step is to hold onto hope of redemption (ie. I did this broken thing, but I will make amends, and I can imagine a future in which I make amends). Prophetic imagination is one of the biggest keys to healing from brokenness.
A similar process takes place when we encounter brokenness in the people around us. Though it is hard, we must recognize that just because someone does something bad, it does not make them a bad person, nor does it mean they will always be a bad person. We must each ask ourselves how we can show love, how we can help people towards making choices that lead away from brokenness. Even people who make an endless series of bad choices, choices that lead to brokenness, can find healing and redemption. The road may be long, and difficult, but it can be done.
So I thank God for my brokenness and for the brokenness in the world, and I pray for healing and redemption in me and in all of us, and for the strength and guidance to respond to brokenness with hope, faith, and love. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.