Living with Frustration and Tension

Our generation has some wonderful emotional and moral qualities, but patience, chastity, contentment with the limits of circumstance, and the capacity to nobly live out tension are not our strengths.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI

The effects of this can be seen everywhere, not least inside of our struggle to be faithful to our relational commitments.

We have made life-long commitment in marriage very difficult because we find it hard to accept that any marriage, no matter how good, cannot take away our loneliness. We have desacralized sexuality and severed its link to marriage because we are unable accept sex as limited to a marriage commitment. We have basically rendered consecrated celibacy existentially impossible because no one, we feel, can be expected to carry sexual tension for a lifetime.

Most painful of all, we have sown a deep restlessness inside of ourselves because, in our incapacity to accept the incompleteness of our lives, we torture ourselves with the thought that we are missing out on life, that we should not have to live with so much incompleteness, and that the full symphony for which we so deeply long should already be ours.

Many of us have not been given the simple, basic permission to live in frustration, that is, to feel okay about ourselves and about our lives even when for the most part we are frustrated. We were not given permission to accept that frustration is natural, the normal state of things, and that it is okay to accept ourselves and our lives as they are and find joy and happiness inside of them, in spite of the frustrations.

Most of us will have to learn this the hard way, through bitter experience, through tears, and through a lot of restlessness from which we might be spared if we already knew that hunger, not satiation, is what is normal.

Wisdom and maturity invariably do find us and life eventually turns each of us into an ascetic. We can be peaceful, if we accept that frustration is normal.

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