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Saturday, March 31, 2007
Faithless and therefore trustworthy
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
"The Invitation", Oriah

This poem, which has been circulated around the world since Oriah first shared it with her students in the late 1990s, shook something loose in me when I first read it. Tears ran down my face as I read stanzas like:

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

She wrote this poem after one of those dismal parties where everyone natters on about shallow, soul-destroying subjects. Where people exaggerate that little bit to make themselves sound better than they are. Where they try oh-so-hard to sound like intellectuals, and sound like pretentious prats instead. Where they exaggerate the number of people they slept with and how their exes are all still pining after them. Where, of course, they couldn't possibly mention their shortcomings, wonder about the nature of the universe, admit that someone else is better at something than they are or laugh at themselves, because that would make them look weak. Human.

And God forbid they should ever use the words "I don't know."

The kind of party that, if you have any desire to really connect with people, makes you want to slit your wrists.

She got home and wrote the poem using a simple technique she learned at a workshop: pair a sentence beginning with "It doesn't matter to me..." with one that starts "I want to know..." And she turned it into something that touched the hearts of people around the globe.

The first stanza I quoted made my breath catch when I first read it. What fascinated me even more was that it made people *furious*. Many wrote her and told her that she meant faithful, and would list the reasons why. Instead of exploring how you could be "faithless and therefore trustworthy", people wanted to change it to fit their comfort zone. How could you possibly be *faithless* and trustworthy?

One of the first examples that sprung to mind was the Catholic clergy, not least because in a recent lunch with a clerical friend, he had said, with great vehemence, "I hate the ones that leave. I think they're traitors." I questioned whether he meant the priesthood or his particular group, and he said, "Both." I was struck by his vehemence and inwardly wondered, "Are you turning your anger outwards onto those who dare to do what you wish you had done?"

I thought about clerics I knew who had left their orders, congregations, etc. to become secular priests or to get married. The ones who had dared to face down the institution and say, "Enough. I won't lie; I won't pretend; God is calling me to something/somewhere else. I'm leaving." The ones who bore the anger, scorn, hatred, accusations of betrayal, questions about their sanity to be true to who they were and what they felt God was asking of them (sound like the Via Dolorosa, anyone?). The ones who showed those around them that you can be true to yourself and that they needed to stop seeking approval and start seeking love and truth.

I realised that I trusted them with my heart and my life. That I could talk to them at length and depth without fear of scorn or attempted emotional manipulation to get me to follow a certain way. I can feel the Spirit of God in them loud and clear and their essence sounds as true as a crystal note.

Faithless, and therefore trustworthy.

I also know those who stayed because it was expected, because they needed approval, because they were afraid. I watch them dismember themselves and become less of who they truly are as they sink into busyness, power-seeking, glib superficiality, people-pleasing, alcoholism, drugs to numb the pain of amputation after amputation. One of the saddest and most disturbing statements I ever heard was, "He told me that at first, your vows make you stay. Then eventually, you want to stay." My heart broke on those words.

That isn't truth. That is fear, comfort and the death of the spirit within you - both mundane and holy. Even God will stop whispering when He knows it falls on deaf ears:

Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

--"Houses" from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Over time, I realise that I tell them less and less - the breadth and depth of conversation lessens; I won't go to them for confession; I don't trust them with my real thoughts and feelings.

My heart whispers, "You lie to yourself, to your Church, to all those who are close to you. Your entire life is a lie. How can I trust you?"

Faithful, and therefore untrustworthy.

But even as I use them as examples, I know that as I point one finger at them, I'm pointing three back at myself. The truth is that those lines hit me because *I* am guilty of being faithful and untrustworthy:

I am not a Catholic.

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posted by Irim at 4:39 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/31/2007 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Crystal


  • At 3/31/2007 11:10:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Irim, thank you so much for posting this...I was literally just intensely struggling with the issue being able to disappoint another to be true to myself when I read those first opening lines...God really used that to confirm the revelation that has been opening up to me today about how important that step is in my journey toward holiness and wholeness.

  • At 4/01/2007 09:38:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks for sharing. This was very beautiful. I am not clergy, but the intensity of the beliefs in my family can evoke fear, jealousy, disdain, etc. I have learned though, that projection is a very real thing. I would agree that so many times, I think the harshest critics come from a place of jealousy and yearning. They so badly want to follow their soul and yet can not due to fear.
    I have found in moments of being pretty "faithless" I grow more "faithful".

  • At 4/01/2007 04:35:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Irim, I love your post. What you state rings very true for me. You've given me wonderful perspective in my current situation as well as reminded me of my own issues with trustworthiness as you've described it.

    Thank you.

  • At 4/01/2007 06:18:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Irim: Very beautifully said. I love "The Invitation". There is a song that borrows heavily from it that served as sort of an anthem for me several years ago while I went through some horrible times. Don Henley must have liked the poem too. : )

  • At 4/02/2007 07:45:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    Its amazing how someone else knows what to post at certain times. Irim, this was the most beautiful and meaningful post I think I've read.

    Today, I tried focusing today on my people pleasing addiction and how scared I am to find out what it would be like to stop getting their approval.

    A sermon at Rob Bell's church that I listened to today was on this subject as well. Dying to your false self, a hard, scary thing but one that brings you out of darkness.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • At 4/02/2007 08:08:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    This reminds me of a story I heard on NPR about a man with a spinal cord injury who became very ill while in the hospital one Sunday morning. The neurosurgical resident after being paged 6 or 7 times finally showed up and very uncompassionately said to him that he should get out of the hospital and seek outpatient care. The patient was upset and wrote a letter to the resident's superiors. The resident replied with a written apology and an explanation that he had been having a very bad day and in fact had a headache himself. The patient replied that perhaps if the resident had pulled up a chair and taken a minute to share openly about that, then maybe both of them would have benefited.

  • At 4/03/2007 08:43:00 AM, Blogger Irim

    Erm. erm. Uh...wow. I poked my head back on here to see if there were any comments and am feeling touched, overwhelmed and really grateful

    Thank you, everyone.

    Jemila, Amy, Meg: been there, done that, own a walk-in wardrobe full of t-shirts. Sometimes am still there. I was always the "good girl", "The dependable one", the one who got thanked for never saying no. Stopping that began with realising that every time I did something for someone else and felt resentful, I was poisoning the chalice of giving. That really shook me and made me think. I am still learning that if you're not true to yourself, you're lying to God and everyone else around you.

    "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." --Polonius to Laertes, Hamlet

    Crystal - thank you for your blog entry. I don't know what else to say but thank you for giving me space in your space.

    Michele - I am so with you there. You and your family are always in my prayers. I think about your situation often.

    Nancy - it *is* fabulous...and I agree with you on Don Henley!

    Medium Guy - Absolutely - people like doctors and priests need to remember that they're human, and their work is so much more open to God when they - and *we* - allow them(selves) that freedom.

    Thank you again, everyone...I really hesitated, b/c this was so personal and I'm struggling so hard with my Catholicism, and your love means a lot.

    Blessed be,

  • At 6/29/2011 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous Roulette Bets

    Many thanks for an explanation, now I will know.


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