Training in Shadow boxing


The sun shyly made an effort last night.  Right at the closing of a November-like day in October, it painted the tips of huge puffy gray clouds a light yellow.  The sky looked like a mountain range topped with creamy lemon frosting.

This striking sight reminded me of a discussion recently in  a class I am teaching about the Twelve Steps and spirituality.  We were puzzling together about our shadow selves, the parts of us that we deny even exist:  the blind spots, “stinkin’ thinking,” and personal flaws that sabotage our desires to grow and change.  Most of us go through life with just the tips of who we are showing.  We act as if the gray clouds underneath don’t exist.  Sometimes that happens because we  are consciously refusing to let people in.   Other times we are in total denial about the shadowy gray areas that allow us to do mean and ugly things.

In his book Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, Richard Rohr encourages “shadow boxing” – seeing and naming our faults.  Shadow boxing is the  “searching and moral inventory” advocated in Step 4.  The result of this process is transparency and authenticity – character traits which Rohr points out make it much easier for people around us to love us.   Authenticity and transparency are rare values in 2013; we spend a lot of time and money to hide who we are. But they are values that Scripture encourages and that Jesus lived out.

Rohr says, “Honest ‘shadowboxing’ [is] the heart of all spiritual awakening.  Yes, ‘the truth will set you free’ as Jesus says  (John 8:32), but first it tends to make you miserable.”    I think often about the 3 years the disciples spent with Jesus, listening, arguing, complaining, believing, doubting, following,  rationalizing why they shouldn’t follow.  Perhaps those years were a marathon training session in shadow boxing.  Should we expect to do less?

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