When we aim to understand ourselves in a deeper way, and spend time focussing inwards, the dark impressions which we recover at first are not reassuring. We may experience our soul’s troubled waters as a shadowy pool. What light we find there feels moody, insubstantial and even riddled with foreboding.
When St. Paul said ‘we see as through a glass darkly’, (1 Corinthians 13:12) it was surely the kind of seeing we attempt to enjoy as the character and creative traits of others. But at first we are not skilled in reading these correctly. We meet the mistrust and suspicion of others, or display to them more of our own suspicion than we would have wished them to notice. Jacopone tackles this clash well.
“Draw yourself up to your full stature
And thunder me a sermon for the mote in my eye.
You scorn me, oblivious of the beam in your own.
Tend your own wounds, so wide and deep they cannot heal.
“Students of Scripture, you want to preach,
And point out the darkness in my life, ignoring yours;
You make a show of your exterior, and have little love
For anyone who would search your heart instead.”
We sometimes wonder, when we lock horns, who will back down first? But as Christians we each have reserves of humility in our shady, glassy inner pool. We have to trust these and plunge into them as we would plunge into God, for the sake of a genuine friendship.