We are wrapping up our role play experience this week and next with reflections and comments on the whole thing. If you have taken the time to really immerse yourself, you’re probably hitting the same snags as everyone else. Great! This is, in fact, an intended part of the process. Our RPG is designed to focus our attention on the most basic foundational pegs of human relationships, allowing us to see how such things are affected on a rather grand scale by the seemingly smallest subtleties of orientation and assumption.
We’ll start with what is most fresh – revisiting our solitary/mentor discussion from last week. Did anyone find it jarring to see this bit of advice?
It might be the wording, or the slightly dismissive tone. Perhaps it’s the suggestions that seem a little off. Perhaps it’s the whole paragraph that seems… downright insensitive.
And, this is a role play, after all, so we can use more liberty here than we would take in real situations.
The advice above was blithely given to those of us drawing the “solitary” choice from the Help Deck. The “mentor” card, on the other hand, received a good ten paragraphs or more of discussion and elaboration. Assuming a 50/50 chance of drawing either card, the “solitary” players really got shortchanged. It would appear that our agenda centered on extolling the virtues of mentorship and convincing readers that this is a key part of doing what we do.
It was. We are not ashamed to say that we did want to do that, and we hope we did a decent job of it. But now we need to look at the flip side, the notion of playing alone, answerable only to ourselves. A lot of people live their lives this way on purpose… but a great many more go through their day to day with no mentoring simply because it’s not there. Life does not play out with a deck of cards. Many, many people do what they do with what they have, without the benefit of a game structure to introduce someone as a designated and trustworthy advisor.
Our advice (in our opinion) smacks a little too much of reality. How many of us have heard these messages, in one way or another?
For those of us who have, or have ever had, any difficulty in any social situation or relationship, this is the kind of talk that makes us want to explode… or give up.
To be fair, these statements by themselves are not entirely bad. Many times we
do need encouragement to try harder. Many times we need to be reminded by
someone else that we are being too harsh of a critic toward ourselves. Many
times it is indeed helpful to glance at someone else and see what their secrets to
The key is not to do any of that for ourselves.
These messages take on different nuances, depending on their source. If someone is truly connected to us, understands our need and suggests something along these lines, it can be very helpful and reassuring. If it is a message that comes from someone to whom we are not personally connected, it sounds like an unhelpful platitude meant to keep us from inconveniencing the speaker. If it comes from ourselves, especially as we go further down the list, it begins to sound less encouraging and more dishonest.
There will be times when we have to wing it. There will be times when we improvise, or when we are out of ideas and have to keep trying anyway. Life is like that sometimes, no matter how well we try to plan or control what happens. But habitually falling back on ourselves without the benefit of feedback or encouragement gives us a sense of insulation that whispers the temptation to fake it ‘till we make it. After awhile, we internalize that our success is based on a fraudulent façade… which disconnects us from our very selves.
Think about that.
How often does real life give us the “solitary” card instead of the benefit of a “mentor” card? Too often, unfortunately. We have no way to guarantee we will have mentors available. So what, then, can we do, when we find ourselves with only ourselves?
Remember, our Mission as Missionaries of Saint Thorlak is to take on spiritual starvation, one ordinary step at a time. Keep this foremost in our minds, and not only will we protect ourselves from spiritual malnourishment, but we will lead others by our example.
PRAY: Heavenly Father, help me to recognize the people You provide as emissaries to me, and help me see where I am needed as Your emissary to others.
CONTEMPLATE: When have I heard, or said, advice like the statements we have studied in this week’s Missionary Thought? What message has it sent?
RELATE: Actively practice one of the suggestions from this week’s Thought ( Pray / Designate / Cultivate / Mentor ).
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak