Learning My Lesson… Again

For nearly six years I have lived in a community of religious men seeking to live humbly and serve others. I’ve been to workshops, heard lectures, went on retreats, prayed for countless hours, and really, just lived this life for more than 2000 days. You would think that I’d have learned a few lessons in that time.

Apparently not.

A couple of weeks ago, I came home for lunch to find a mess in the kitchen: there was peanut butter everywhere. If that sounds like a strange statement, it’s because it is. I don’t know who did it or how it happened without them noticing, but there was peanut butter on the faucet of the sink, the counter, the cabinet handle, the refrigerator, and the bag of bread. Presumably, someone used the peanut butter, got some on his hand without realizing it, and spread it to everything he touched.

Ultimately, that’s irrelevant, though. My first reaction was not “how…” it was “ah hell no!” I took one look at the mess and said, as I have been known to do over the past six years, “Not my problem.” I was not going to deal with this mess. I was in a hurry, had my own lunch to make… whoever did this—and all the rest of the friars—could come home and see what a jerk he was and clean it himself. Not doing it.

*Fast forward fifteen seconds.*

There I was, having leaned up against the counter I had just complained about, with peanut butter on my habit. Ugh. This is not going to come out easily. Initially even angrier at whoever had left the mess, I found myself feeling really stupid moments later. Had I simply taken fifteen seconds to get a rag and cleaning spray, the kitchen would have been clean and my habit would not smell like lunch. Was it REALLY that big of a deal to clean up after someone else?

The answer is no. And really, the answer is always no. As much as what the other person did is disrespectful, rude, lazy, and inexcusable, a passive-aggressive response is never the answer. Letting myself get angry and handling the issue indirectly—simply leaving the mess in hopes that it will annoy others or send a message to the person who did it—is not the way to resolve an issue; it’s the way I get peanut on myself.

Hmm. . . How symbolic. . . It’s almost as if when we try to avoid an issue, choosing to “send a message” rather than simply talking with the person with whom we have a problem, we end up carrying the mess ourselves without them even knowing it. . .

Naturally, this is but an insignificant kitchen situation, but really, how different is it from the serious issues of life? So often in my life I find myself frustrated with something someone else has done, how they’ve treated me, or what they stand for. How easy it would be to simply address the issue head on, grab a rag, and get rid of it: “Hey, can we talk about something that’s bothering me?” But no. I prefer to hold onto my resentment, let myself get angry without them knowing anything is wrong, and hope that they get the message from my subtle slights and distancing myself from them. That’ll show them what they did.

Or it won’t.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how “religious” we are or how much we know, the simplest lessons need to be repeated from time to time; sometimes we need to go back to basics. Luckily for us Christians, the liturgical year offers us a built in mechanism for doing just that. As we pass from season to season—and now as we approach Lent—we return to lessons and teachings that we’ve heard again and again, hoping each year that some will stick for the long haul. It’s a chance to look at our lives and reflect, to take a step back, return to what we know and ask ourselves if that’s what we do. As I have found out over the past six years, and as I was reminded in the kitchen just a few weeks ago, our faith is not the exclusive domain of sacred spaces and buildings: it is something that is lived (and learned) in the ordinary, mundane, messes-in-the-kitchen situations of life. One day, if we’re lucky, we’ll all learn our lesson.

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6 Comments on “Learning My Lesson… Again

  1. Hi Brother Casey

    The other day I felt God talking to me about shalom and trusting in Him. As I was sitting waiting for some test results at the doctors I was super stressed. As I sat there I thought I trusted God why am l so nervous, why was I snapping at people, been the complete opposite of what I thought I should! When will I learn? God has this, He knows, it’s ok. I was so disappointed in myself and things keep happening where God is allowing me to practice, peace and trust!!! But I never seem to learn!!!!! I will one day.

  2. Dear Casey,
    This story shows once again many teachings that you seem to have learned or be in your way to learn. But it also speaks about how many good qualities you have, even though some of these values coming from your good manners, excellent education and perfectionist personality have to confront other people’s realities, standards and values…
    Nothing new that we all have not had to confront a thousand times in living together with relatives, equals, workmates or even strangers. Living together with different people from us is not an easy task, but having to live alone because we haven’t learned to accept that difference is much harder. I speak from experience!
    If we all have a learning responsibility there to accept and match such amount of disformed people-pieces of the same puzzle in which we have to fit, I suppose more so a Franciscan must be devoted to specific religious qualities, such as patience, mortification and humility.
    Let us wish this Lenten season we may cross a Sinai desert of 40 exemplary days of growing maturity in a nurturing penance… living together and putting up with really “unbearable” dorks…

  3. Great lesson. I am in Haiti for a few weeks and sometimes it takes all that is in me not to judge or try to teach my way. Every path to peace is different. We can’t always fix things, only ourselves. As Fr Pat says “Progress not perfection. ”

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  4. Good afternoon, Br. Casey. I’ve just discovered your blog and videos. Thank you! As an old bird (62 years) who is now seriously considering the religious life (Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour), I’m trying to find out all I can about discernment, formation, religious life…..all of it. All orders are different, yet very much the same. Your peanut butter story had me in stitches because……………it is SO human! Bless you on your vocation and journey. Some of us got the “memo” late in life….but we’re answering! I’m enjoying your blogs and videos very much.
    Sending you abundant blessings and prayers!

  5. Friar Casey,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us! I look forward to reading your blog as soon as I get it in the mail. This week you reeled me in with the kitchen as that happens (especially with kids) in our house often. Whether or not I am the culprit or my wife or the kids, the stewing always happens in my wife. Sometimes we all have the challenge of recognizing the “real” and the “insignificant” issues in our lives. We think because they involve us that they are all “real”. We place all these issues in the pot until we have had enough heat and we boil over. Like a boiling pot taken of the stove top, fifteen second later everything seems to start the process of cooling down.
    Keeping these blogs coming my Brother!

  6. Br. Casey,
    Peace!
    We’ll have “made it” when enjoying the “beautific vision,” eh? But until then, you ARE in fact, “making it!”
    Thanks be to God for your ministry and the hard work you have, (and are,) putting in to mature the “talents” our good and gracious God has blessed you with!
    I catch myself seemingly a hundred times a day, apologizing to God for having failed to apply, and having to “re-learn,” a lesson that I (should) have already learned before.
    “Carry on” with all your good work. (Both interiorly, and exteriorly.)
    God’s Blessings, Brother!
    Peace, (Num 6: 24-26!)
    Liam

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