Friday, March 12, 2010

Good grief

Used with permission under the Creative Commons License

Charlie Brown is famous for his frustrated "Good grief!"

He repeated it often enough that others have discussed if there is such a thing. Is there? Why would grief be good? Shouldn't we avoid it? Isn't the experience of grief a sign of our weakness?

No, not exactly. Perhaps we could cope with challenges more effectively if we accept a new old idea: Grief is good if it leads to positive change.

Grief does something similar to pain. It calls our consciousness to accept what the subconscious clues are trying to tell us: Something is wrong and should be addressed.

Pain is caused by all sorts of things, but grief is almost always a function of unresolved expectations in human relationships. (This is true even for the grief of loss. Something was left unfinished.)

How much suffering could be averted if we identified, articulated, and addressed misbehaviors early? How many arguments and fights and wars could be avoided if we said "I'm sorry" more often? How much more joy would there be if a nearly immediate recognition of grief rapidly translated to a response of love, which replaced the grief with mutual elation for both parties involved?

Lent culminates in a triumph of goodness, a manifestation of power, a victory of all that is good, a certification that Life is--as it should be--stronger than death.

But Lent also calls us to two actions. Granted, the first action is internal and invisible to others, but it is still action, the action of introspection. But the second is more apparent, the demonstration of new behavior. Lent demands an examination of practices and habits, thoughts an desires and passions. Lent calls us to behave constructively, consistent with the dignity inherent in our humanity.

Some members of churches with a developed monastic tradition refer to a "baptism of tears" as a sign that internal change is taking place. The religious word "repentance" could be substituted here. The point is that we reach a state where we recognize our mistreatment of others and consciously desire to undo it.

We can't, of course. But we can behave differently from there on out.

A dose of good grief would be good for all of us.

This post is a submission to
Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time Blog Carnival
on the subject of "goodness."

Other submissions have covered
lust, love, church, peace, patience, and kindness.