The ability to make sacrifices in service of a greater good is the hallmark of maturity. – Jordan Peterson
Despite the horrors and negative connotations connected with its name, all mortification means is simply that one chooses what is right over how they “feel”. It means choosing to put the good of any given person, event, or outcome above what you “want”. To mortify oneself is to choose to do something hard or in order to prepare yourself to make the even harder choices later, even when you feel like you’d “rather die” than do it.
We practice mortification when we don’t allow our fear of pain to overcome our love of truth, and when we quell our fight or flight instinct in order to act with intelligence and intentionality.
It is a beautiful thing.
It’s what superheroes are made of!
The word mortification is a terrifying one. It literally comes from the Latin mortificare that means “to put to death”, specifically, in traditional understanding, “the desires of the flesh”. It was considered essential for salvation back in the day and it conjures images of self-flagellation, monks in hair shirts holding skulls, and all manner of other creepy and unpleasant things. The thought of it has almost single handedly fueled the rampant hatred of traditional Religion. To 99% of the population it seems to suggest that mankind is bad, God’s gifts should be rejected, and that the world and this life are evil. Such a view of mortification fuels a vision of God who is cruel and bloodthirsty rather than a gentle and loving good shepherd. We all know the vision of an egotistical and masochistic God couldn’t be farther from the truth, therefore, it “stands to reason” that we should also reject everything that supports this vision – hence the word has become all but taboo, and anyone who dares contemplate it is automatically considered crazy, even by themselves.
But what if mortification is more than this? What if we’ve rotundly rejected an essential spiritual practice because of misunderstanding, and rediscovering it might be the forgotten secret to the spiritual vibrancy we can only dream about.
I’ve often heard of the 4 “Pillars of Self-Care” (also called “Levels of the Self”/ “Aspects of Personhood” / “Facets of Wellness”) described as 4 legs on a table – you know, where if one of the legs is weak, the table is unstable? It’s an analogy I have loved and ascribed to for a long time, however, lately I have started to like to think of them more as passengers in a car… or maybe even more accurately, a 4 person tandem bicycle.
Do you feel far away from God? Like He is there but inaccessible? In your mind He exists, but He doesn’t really care? You’ve been trying, but failing, and an actual relationship with Him is starting to feel indistinct, inapproachable, and unattainable? Or, at best, like something “everyone else” will always have, but never you?
If so, this is for you.
Remember, we do not gain a relationship with God on the basis of sheer will power alone. We do not and cannot force Him to do anything, nor ourselves for that matter. So, its a good thing will-power, talent, and brute force aren’t required here. All we really have to do is show up like we mean it!
This post is about how to show up…