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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, October 21, 2016
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Rock and Refuge
with Fr. Roy Cimagala

Rock & Refuge

Our defense mechanisms

We all have our defense mechanisms. Since our life is dynamic, with all kinds of movements, we need these mechanisms to keep us out of danger and help us in our difficulties.

Some of them are naturally provided, like our instincts and immune systems made up of antibodies and the like. They correspond to the natural difficulties and physical dangers that can come our way. They can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on circumstances.

But there are those that we deliberately cultivate and develop. They correspond not so much to our natural and physical dangers as to what we consider as our moral and spiritual dangers.

These latter defense mechanisms are human acts that are subject to themoral law. They involve how we perceive, judge and react to things.They can either be good or bad, depending on how we use them. There are those that are just one-act affairs, sporadic in occurrence, andthose that are already habitual and therefore are either a virtue or avice.

It's good if we be aware of this latter kind of defense mechanisms, making some kind of inventory and then a plan of how to cultivate them properly. Especially these days when we are faced with complicated situations and a lot of pressures, we need to be ready with our proper defense mechanisms.

Some of the good defense mechanisms are our ability to be patient, to bounce back immediately after a failure, to focus more on the positive side of people and of things instead of getting stuck with the negative, to disregard irritating and impertinent details, to sweet-lemon, etc.

Some of the bad ones are the tendency to deny things and to lie, to rationalize and find excuses for one's errors, to find fault and blame others instead of owning up to one's mistakes, to sour-grape, to gossip, to fall into self-pity and depression, to isolate oneself,etc.

We need to know the workings of these defense mechanisms so we coulddirect our own life toward its proper end. Especially when we do ourdaily examinations of conscience, where we should try to see things as objectively as possible, we have to be most aware of the subtle workings of our defense mechanisms that may prevent us to see thingsas they are.

In medical science, there is such thing, for example, as abdominal or muscle guarding which is the tensing of the abdominal wall muscles to guard inflamed organs within the abdomen from the pain of pressure upon them. The tensing is detected when the abdominal wall is pressed.(cfr Wikipedia)

This can happen in our examinations of conscience also. We can guard and keep secret the anomalies of our spiritual life by doing the spiritual equivalent of muscle guarding. Thus, it's important that inour examinations of conscience, we should not shy away from having topress hard on some aspects of our spiritual life to see if a spiritualdisorder is developing or is getting stable.

In this regard, it is recommended that we be severe in our examinations, asking first for the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit who will lead our probing to the sensitive areas of our spiritual life.

We also have to be wary of our tendency to take our faults lightly, treating them in a cavalier manner without making any effort to go deep into their roots to remove them. That is why we should try our best to be a severe judge of our own selves. And to help us in this regard, it may be useful to avail of spiritual direction so that someone whom we can trust can demand on us more.

We can also play deaf and blind in our examination of conscience,especially because this spiritual activity is usually done at the endof the day and therefore we are already tired. This is where some extraordinary effort, as a manifestation of genuine love for God and souls, can and should be done. We just have to convince ourselves that effort would be all worthwhile.

We should not be ashamed nor afraid to show ourselves to God as we are, warts and all, because he is not only a judge. He is first of alla father to us who loves us no end. He will understand us and will always show compassion and give us mercy. Besides, he is the ultimate healer of any spiritual and moral illness we may fall into.

Let's do away with our defense mechanisms that would prevent us from seeing things the way God wants us to see them.*

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