One key to spiritual transformation is to learn on a day to day, minute by minute basis, to be aware of what St. Ignatius called consolations and desolations. Every thought and every feeling are leading us either towards greater or lesser inner freedom. Each inner movement is enriching us or not. Normally, we don’t notice, but with God’s help, we are graced with insight. We become aware of the disordered affections that pull us towards unfreedom, and of the gifts that draw us closer to God’s heart.
A crucial key is to observe the desolations, the unfreedom, the non-enriching thoughts, feelings, and behaviors nonjudgmentally. No blame. No condemnation. No beating ourselves up. No “shoulds.”
Disordered affections are emotional habits that weigh us down. They are what the author of Hebrews is talking about in 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Negative emotional habits are things like always blaming others, or always blaming ourselves when things go wrong. The habit of judging is probably the most disordered of affections. Disordered affections may also include focusing on things of little or no spiritual value. A great deal of what’s on television, for example.
Anything that makes us less free spiritually, or doesn’t enrich our spirits and draw us closer to Jesus, is weighing us down, stunting our spiritual growth. Things like:
On the other hand, consolations, inner movements that help get us unstuck spiritually so we can grow to be more like Jesus include things such as:
• Divine Order
• Nonviolent resistance of evil
In the Genesis creation stories, God brings order, beauty, and freedom out of chaos. The satan is always trying to pull creation back into disorder and unfreedom.
I’m slowly learning to recognize and celebrate the consolations. I’m slowly learning to nonjudgmentally observe the desolations and release them in prayer.