Sanctification through tensions in our relationships
Recently, my husband and I were discussing the Gospel about Jesus coming to cause division. Then we talked about tensions we sometime experience in our relationships–when our personalities clash with those of others–and he brought to my attention to the following by St. Josemaría Escrivá:
You clash with the character of one person or another… It has to be that way–you are not a dollar bill to be liked by everyone. Besides, without those clashes which arise in dealing with your neighbors, how could you ever lose the sharp corners, the edges–imperfections and defects in your character–and acquire the order, the smoothness and the firm mildness of charity, of perfection?
If your character and that of those around you were soft and sweet like marshmallows, you would never become a saint.”
(The Way, 20)
Let us imagine for a second that our relationships were all perfect; that none of them posed a challenge to us whatsoever. Wouldn’t that be boring? Perhaps so. We would not learn much about ourselves or from our neighbors. We would not be accountable for our actions and how they affect those around us. Sometimes those little bumps in our relationships are needed as means of sanctification–as means to purify our words and behavior. It is during these tense times that we are humbled and we recognize our faults and shortcomings, because of how they affect the other. Thus, I do agree with St. Josemaría that it is in this clash of characters that we are sanctified, because we are shown who we truly are. These instances force us to either be honest with ourselves—to be humble—or to walk away from these relationships, because they are “too much work.” No wonder we see so many divorces today—in our society today we lack so much the disposition to be humble.
A lot of people say that you can never change your friends, significant other, or spouse. There is a lot of truth to that statement, especially if one refers to that person’s habits or tastes. However, I think of my mom and dad and how throughout the years their relationship has improved more and more. My dad still has the same habits as well as my mom and their tastes have not changed too much, but their mutual love has made them more patient towards the other in order for their relationship to work.
I also think of my husband and I when we started dating. We both had been single for so long before we met that it was somewhat hard to shift our lives into a “giving mode.” We clashed a few times, because different than before, now we were sharing a life with someone else and we had to be cognizant of that in every single one of our actions. The shift was not too hard, because our mutual love prompted us to be aware of how our words and actions affected the other and soon there was a seamless transition into a relationship that was centered into the gift of oneself to the other—soon he was eating Venezuelan foods or listening to my favorite bands, something he would have never done before and I found myself watching NFL games or reading the same books he enjoyed, which I never thought of doing ever before. Of course, we are not perfect at doing this, but every time we have “little tensions” we try to make them out as opportunities for sanctifying the other—make it a positive experience—rather than being resentful for days!