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It’s OK to complain about the demands of faith but how you vent matters.

Venting is good. Venting is sometimes lifesaving. But it matters where you vent and why.

It is now fairly easy to find other groups online who will supply any kind of community you desire. I am grateful that in my darkest times I did not end up in a group of Catholics who would tell me, “A loving God won’t expect us to suffer more than we feel ready to suffer.” I did not stumble into a group that sneered at faithful people, implying that it is easy to avoid sin as long as you are dull and lifeless. And I did not stumble into a group that thought of itself as open and broad-minded but limited itself to the cramped perspective of purely human desires.

Instead, I stumbled into a group that returned, again and again, to the cross. We may have raged at the cross, argued with it, shook our fists at it, groused at it, plead for it to go away – but we never denied that it was central to our lives as Catholics. This was an authentically Catholic group: thoroughly honest, thoroughly compassionate, thoroughly faithful. This is the most Catholic of traits: to acknowledge fully what it is to be human and to respect that humanity but at the same time to recognise that mere humanity is fatally lacking.

Fidelity purifies. Freedom to vent becomes foulness if that venting does not have an outlet and opening, a place where the walls open up to heaven. This is what love does: It purifies. And love is inextricably linked to the cross.

What groups are you in? What is the group’s main purpose – not necessarily its stated purpose but its actual one? What kind of behaviour gets rewarded, and what happens when you vent? What do you consistently learn over time from being in the group and having conversations there?

Are you ever challenged in your thinking, or do you get only affirmation? Are you ever aware of changing what you say or do or think, not because it is objectively right or wrong but because you know the group would not approve? Do you find yourself more and more contemptuous of people who are not in the group? Does the group feed off of mocking and deriding outsiders?

If you have answered “yes” to any questions in the paragraph above, it is probably not a healthy place to be, especially if it has anything to do with your faith. A healthy group allows honest venting but also recognises venting for what it is: a transitory thing, useful for emotional relief. But it is not healthy if we wish to breathe clean air. If you vent into a closed room, then what you vent will simply hang around, and that is how the mold sets in.

The cross is the great purifier. Set it up in the centre of your life, and see what it does to the air you breathe. – Simcha Fisher, America

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