During August, I’ll focus on how Ignatian principles of spiritual growth are quite fitting for those of us in the second half of life. “Find Your Inner Iggy” is the title of a promotion Loyola Press had going on Facebook recently, and I really like the sound of that phrase—rather whimsical.
Establish a Habit of Reflection
Ignatius (OK, I’m going to call him Iggy) did not invent the idea of self-reflection, but he did make it a key mark of the Spiritual Exercises. After a certain prayer exercise, the retreatant reflects on what just happened. She looks back over the time she’s spent and notes (sometimes through journaling) how she felt, what thoughts occurred to her, what she sensed God saying to her, and so forth.
And in the daily Examen, another key prayer from St. Iggy, we are urged to look back over the day and reflect on what happened. By revisiting the day’s events and our actions and reactions, we can develop our ability to identify our true emotions, our habits of thought, feeling, or speech, and also to identify God’s grace in the midst of it all.
By the time we’re in the second half of life, we desperately need to be reflective people. By now we should be beyond merely reacting to what goes on around us. Also, in our more “mature” years, we do well to tackle our ugly habits and allow Christ to transform us. We should be able to look back over a day, or a year, or even a decade, and see our tendencies for what they are—and then change them if we don’t like what we see.
Do I tend to be controlling and manipulative? After establishing a habit of reflection, I should see where I fall into this unhealthy pattern. Once I see what I’m doing, I have the power to strategize a better way of behaving. Am I whiney, likely to take the victim role? Am I addicted to finding things to worry about? Do I allow people to treat me badly out of some sick desire on my part to pay for my own sins? All of these are habits that issue from our sinful tendencies to avoid the truth and run from responsibility. Yet, as Christians we (supposedly) believe that “in Christ” we are new creations. So how about we act like it?
Establish a habit of looking at your life, naming what you see, and taking the next good step. There’s no point in growing old if you don’t grow up.