Dealing with Brokenness in the World
by Fr. George Morelli
Originally published in July 2006
Does any one need any more evidence that brokenness exists in the world? We see it everywhere: in business, government, education; even in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Brokenness also exists among individuals called to noble conduct: judges, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, medical practitioners, military leaders, religious personages, teachers and more. No level of society or occupation is exempt.
What is brokenness? Where does it come from? Brokenness is the term that describes the fundamental disorder that exists in creation that affects a person's relationships and creative activity. We experience it inwardly in a way that St. Paul described as that pull between right and wrong where we know what is good but choose the opposite. Outwardly it is expressed by the scandals of greed, sexual abuse, and other crimes that seem ever more prevalent year by year.
Where does brokenness come from? The Church tells us to look to Scripture, particularly the narrative of creation in the book of Genesis. The source of brokenness does not begin with Adam and Eve, or even with God speaking the world into existence. Rather, brokenness has its source in another creature of God: the angel who at one time was chief of the angelic hosts - Satan and his cohorts.
One does not need to believe in a personal God to hold to this precept. Human beings are constituted toward order, and function with a presumption of an ordered universe whether or not they believe in God. How they perceive that the world is ordered is at question here, and their presuppositions are unavoidably religious even if they eschew any faith in God.
The skeptic will dismiss the scriptural account as a fairy tale, not worthy of serious deliberation. It strikes his ear as fantastic, too removed from everyday experience. The problem is that in rejecting any supernatural source, the brokenness that exists must necessarily be seen as intrinsic to the created order. In this view, God is understood as the Creator of disorder rather than the One who creates order out of chaos. The disordered world, in other words, reflects a disordered god.
Genesis, in claiming that disorder proceeds from a source outside and apart from the material universe, asserts that disorder is not intrinsic to creation. Moderns have no trouble understanding this. The ancients however did. In particular classic antiquity was rocked to its foundations once this fundamental Judaic precept was comprehended through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. The ancient pantheon of gods had no recourse but to fall, taking their rightful place as mere projections of the imagination, and thus lost all cultural power.
Further, if disorder is not intrinsic to creation, the world can be seen as good despite the brokenness that exists within it. The world, Genesis tells us, was created good. (Again, if disorder was intrinsic to creation, disorder would be natural to the created order and the categories of good and evil could not apply.) Moreover, man, as a creation of the God who is good and creates only good things, was also deemed good. This is revealed in the passages that assert man is created in the image and likeness of God: "God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27); the "Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).
The devil, on the other hand, is the source of disorder. The devil does not function as God's opposite, but only as a liar and destroyer - as one who distorts God's truth and violently deconstructs God's created order. St. John wrote that, "the devil has sinned from the beginning" (1 John 3:8). He shed more light on the nature of the devil and his evil in a conversation Jesus had with the Pharisees: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44).
Man's Free Choice the Beginning of Earthly Evil
How, then, did the disorder enter the world? It entered through man. Here too the skeptic raises an objection. "If God were good," he asks, "why did he allow Adam to be tempted? Why didn't God just let Adam be?" Yet here too, the skeptic fails to grasp the final ramifications of his objection.
To be created in the image and likeness of God means that man was created with a radical, even fearsome, freedom. The freedom Adam possessed expressed itself fully as obedience to God. Adam lost his freedom through disobedience although the Second Adam (as St. Paul calls Christ) restores it through baptism which restores the Holy Spirit to man - the same Spirit that Adam lost. From another viewpoint, obedience to God is the means by which man fulfills his created destiny. Man is completely human, he finds his purpose and vocation when he lives his life and in and through God.
In his Discourses St. Dorotheos of Gaza (Wheeler, 1977) wrote: "In the beginning when God created man he set him in paradise (as the divine holy scripture says), (Genesis 2:25) adorned with every virtue, and gave him a command not to eat of the tree in the middle of paradise" (Genesis 2:16-17).
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the Garden to test Adam, but in terms different than we might at first think. God's intention was not to see Adam fall. Rather, the test would allow Adam to affirm his freedom through obedience and thereby grow into greater grace. Freedom makes available the possibility of disobedience; otherwise freedom is really not free.
What was this tree of knowledge? The Church Fathers taught that it was a fuller knowledge of good and evil that Adam and Eve did not yet possess. Thus, when the devil (who appears in the Genesis narrative as the serpent) told them "they would be like God" he was telling the truth, but only by half. Adam and Even did indeed gain the knowledge of good and evil, but also became subject to the evil as a result. Hence the radical disordering -- the brokenness -- of creation that we call "The Fall."
God commanded, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). We know our ancestors failed this test, and in the words of St. Dorotheos, "fell from a state in accord with his nature to a state contrary to nature, i.e. a prey to sin, to ambition, to a love of the pleasures of this life and the other passions; and he was mastered by them, and became a slave to them through his transgression. Then little by little evil increased and death reigned and everywhere was ignorance of God (Romans 5:14)."
"Man was created in a miraculous and unique manner," wrote Fr. George Mastrontonis. "He was created in the image and likeness of God. Man was endowed with the power to progress in a free way, and to develop his personality in the countenance of God Himself. Originally God created and placed man in Paradise, where he was expected either to use his freedom rightly or to lose this privilege and corrupt his own nature. Man fell from the blissful state into a needy and sinful life where his nature, corrupted as it was, bequeathed this condition to subsequent generations."
To God's question, "Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" our ancestors replied, "Yes." God told them, "'For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.' ... Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed the cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:11, 19, 23, 24). St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "Thus man, who was so great and precious, as the Scriptures call him, fell from the value he had by nature ... by his sin, clothed himself in an image that is of clay and mortal" (Musurillo, 1979).
Brokenness, sin, and the evil we see around us is foreign to the original purpose for which God created us. Evil is not natural to the creation of man. Each generation has the same measure of freedom to conform its mind and heart - the "personality" - to God. St. Gregory wrote: "But in the way I have described, the whole procession of sin entered into man's life for his undoing, and from a tiny source poured out upon mankind an infinite sea of evil. The soul's divine beauty ... was ... darkened with the rust of sin; it no longer kept the beauty of the image it once possessed by nature, and was transformed into the ugliness of evil."
St. Gregory of Nyssa went on:
This creature man, then, did not possess as a property of his nature at the beginning any inclination to passion ... but the elements of passion were introduced later on after he was created, and in the following way. Man was, as we have said, in the image and likeness of the power that rules all creation; and ... also extended to man's power of self-determination: man could choose whatever pleased him and was not enslaved to any external necessity." Original man chose evil ... Man himself invented evil: he did not find it in God. Nor did God make death; it was man himself, who, as it were, was the creator of all that is evil (Musurillo, 1979).
Freedom to Choose Between Good and Evil Exits Even Today
The Passions: Inclinations to Sin
In Orthodox theology, the legacy of Adam's sin is not a shared guilt that is passed from generation to generation, but the effects of the brokenness and death that Adam's disobedience introduced into the created order. When Orthodox Christians hear the words "... in sin you conceived me ..." from Psalm 51, they do not hear that the act of generation and conception are naturally sinful, but rather that we are conceived and born in a world where sin and death reign.
The brokenness we have inherited from Adam we experience as passions. Passions are defined as the inclinations to sin. St. Dorotheos wrote: "(Our passions) are ... those innate tendencies which lead us to evil. Sin is one thing but instinctive reaction or passion another. These are our reactions: pride, anger, sexual indulgence, hate, greed and so on. The corresponding sins bring into corporeal reality those works which were suggested to him by his innate desires arising, but not giving way to them is by no means impossible" (emphasis added). This last clause opens the doorway to psychological optimism and spiritual hope discussed below.
From where do the passions arise? From misdirected longings originating in the soul for the life that only God can give. We carry the effects of the Fall in our mortal bodies. Our bodies are created matter, made out of the "dust of the ground," and therefore subject to the natural decay of the natural world following the Fall. However, the "breath of God" created another part of man, and from this interior place the longing for God and eternal life arises. Passions arise when the longing for God is misdirected through the body; when it is believed that satisfying the needs and desires of the body can slake the deep thirst for God. Passion (also called lust in scripture although the term refers to more than sexual lust), once conceptualized and acted upon, leads to sin. Sin leads to more death.
The Horrific Consequences of Brokenness
Is listing the sins of the world necessary? Should we count the ways we fall short of obedience to God? Do we need to know what sins we really commit? In a word - yes! We need to be reminded of the horrific consequences of brokenness. Here is a list that makes up only a pinpoint in the galaxy of possible sins. Ponder them to see how far we have fallen:
Abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anger, bearing grudges, blasphemy (profane, impious reference or utterance about God,) child abuse (physical, psychological, sexual or neglect), contempt, disobedience (to Christ, His Church, legitimate authority), deceit, drug addiction, envy, evil speaking (talking about someone even if true), failure to forgive, failure to thank God for all things, fornication ("acting out" or "imaginary entertaining in thought" of sex outside of a blessed marriage), gay marriage, gossip, harshness, hating others, hypocrisy, idolatry (worship of self, other or objects - did we go to Church last Sunday or go golfing instead ... etc?), insider trading, kidnapping, kickbacks many politicians' favorite way of running government), lust, lying, negligence, not caring for the environment, not praying for those who have reviled us, pride, pre-emptive unjust warfare, rash judgment, smoking, spousal abuse, torturing and/or belittling prisoners, unforgiving, using others for money, power or sex.
The Prophet Isaiah spoke in stark terms of the people who should have chosen God but decided to chose sin instead: "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged" (Isaiah 1: 3-4). Jeremiah the Prophet said: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it" (Jeremiah 17:9)? St. Paul and the prophets describe all mankind, including you and me.
We can blame Adam for the brokenness of creation but it does no good because we all are bound to sin and thereby contribute our share of corruption to the world. St Paul told the Romans: "So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do" (Rom 7: 18-19).
God intervenes but Maintains Human Freedom
To be created in God's image means in one respect that the radical freedom man enjoys will not be violated by God. If such freedom did not exist, man would be less than a creature created in God's image. This freedom is part and parcel of man's high calling to become a son of God; a calling that exists even when mankind refuses to hear it.
Further, the fact that creation was deemed good and the radical disordering - the brokenness -- that is evident everywhere is extrinsic to it, means that man and the world can be redeemed. (If brokenness were intrinsic to creation, redemption would not be possible.) This redemption can reach into the deepest places of our soul and extend into the deepest reaches of the universe.
Here we begin to see that a Savior is necessary. Man is existentially locked in a prison of sin and death, yet retains awareness and experiences a deep longing for life outside of it. God, never ceasing to love His creation, and longing that His creatures might return that love intervenes in the affairs of man. He speaks through his prophets of the salvation to come; an effort beautifully expressed in the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil: "Thou didst send forth the Prophets; Thou didst perform mighty works by the saints ... who foretold unto us the salvation which was to come."
Jesus Christ entered the world as a man yet never sinned. He experienced all the temptations common to man without yielding his body to any. As a result, he was not subject to the death and corruption that reigned in the world, making His death on the cross an act of complete sacrifice. Further, having escaped from the corruption of sin and death because He was sinless, death could not hold Christ. The Second Adam escaped the existential prison caused by the disobedience of first Adam.
Man shares in this new of life of Christ - a life in which the power, wisdom -- gifts of God -- are given to man through baptism. Man receives the Holy Spirit in baptism - the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 6) - which also functions as the promise of a future resurrection just as Christ was raised. Before that promise is fulfilled however, some serious work needs to be done. We must confront our own brokenness and sin.
How do we deal with the brokenness of the world, particularly when it causes us hardship? Through hope in God. St. Paul told the Romans:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans: 22-28).
The Church Fathers knew that we cannot get through the periods of brokenness and darkness in our lives without God and hope in Him. St. Thalassios says "Our Lord has given light to all men, but those who do not trust in Him bring darkness upon themselves" (Philokalia II).
St. Maximus the Confessor wrote: "Hope is the intellect's surest pledge of divine help and promises the destruction of hostile powers. Love makes it difficult or, rather, makes it utterly impossible for the intellect to estrange itself from the tender care of God; and when the intellect is under attack, love impels it to concentrate its whole natural power into longing for the divine" (Philokalia II).
St. Maximus continued: "The return to God clearly implies the fullest affirmation of hope in Him, for without this nobody can accept God in any way at all. For it is characteristic of hope that it brings future things before us as if they were present, and so it assures those who are attacked by hostile powers that God, in whose name and for whose sake the saints go into battle, protects them and in no way absent. For without some expectation, pleasant or unpleasant, no one can ever undertake a return to the divine" (Philokalia II).
Transforming Evil into Good and Brokenness into Wholeness: Nurturing Virtue
Sometimes a sense of injustice and brokenness can be used to bring about a good. Some of Jesus' hardest teachings concern the juxtaposition between divine and human justice. Yet understanding this deeper dimension of existence can help strengthen our hope. Jesus said:
You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5: 38-48).
Why is this teaching so hard to comprehend? Because we insist on applying human understanding to heavenly things. Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Ageloglou, 1998) told this story:
Suppose, two men are sitting at the table to eat ... ten peaches. If one greedily eats seven ... this is injustice. Instead if he says: "We are two, and the peaches are ten ... each entitled to five," then he is applying human justice. That is why, many times, we turn to courts to find human justice. However, if he understands that his friend likes peaches very much, he can pretend he is not fond of them and eat only one, and then says to him: "Please eat the rest of the peaches ..." This person has divine justice. He prefers to be unfair to himself by human standards and be rewarded for his sacrifice by God's grace.
Later the Elder stated:
Human justice is zero compared divine justice. Our Lord was the first one to apply divine justice. Neither did He find excuses for Himself when accused, nor protested when people spat on Him, or threatened when He was suffering. He patiently and silently endured ... He even let them tear His clothes off; thus God was ridiculed for standing naked in the presence of His own creation ... He did not seek help from human justice ... He prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34).
The Elder continued: "Divine justice is against human law. Human law is inflexibly equal to all, for it never deviates, but attributes justice to everyone, by putting more emphasis on its regulations than on each individual person." What labor union in our country would accept the same wage given to the vineyard worker who arrived at the last hour as the one who toiled all day (Matthew 20: 1-16)? At the end of the Parable of the Vineyard Jesus spoke about the basis of the economy of salvation (divine justice): "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last" (Matthew 20 15-16).
Suffering, endurance, character and hope
Hope is fostered in tribulation. St. Paul wrote:
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5: 1-6).
Grace Builds on Nature
St. Maximus the Confessor taught: "the grace of the most Holy Spirit does not confer wisdom on the Saints without their natural intellect as capacity to receive it." Goodness and wisdom is granted to man by his "volitive faculty, so that what He (Christ) is in His essence the creature may become by participation" (Philokalia II). It behooves man therefore to prepare himself for the grace of goodness and wisdom by all means possible.
Spiritual Virtue and Psychological Insight
How does the hope discussed in Scripture coincide with psychological science? Contemporary research psychologists investigating effectual components of individuals coping with tribulation have found that "Learned Optimism" (Seligman, 1990, 1995) is a major contributing factor. "Learned Optimism" in other words functions like hope and is related to it. Examining both can show us how they are related, and understanding one can foster growth in the other, thereby leading to greater stability.
The basis of psychological "optimism" is the way that individuals view the causes of the problems that confront them. This is termed the "explanatory style" of the individual. Explanatory style begins in childhood and without efficacious psychological intervention can continue into adulthood (Beck A. 1991; Beck, J. 1995; Ellis, 1962 Morelli, 2006a,b). The three critical dimensions of the 'optimism' explanatory style are permanence, pervasiveness and personalization.
Individuals who have problems coping with ordeals and trials tend to view them as persisting forever (Seligman, 1995). This is similar to the cognitive distortion of Generalization: The ordeal will always occur the way it has been occurring (Beck 1995). The tribulation will always remain the same. Psychologically this broadcasts pessimism. In terms of spiritual virtue, permanence or generalization is similar to the loss of hope, thus broadcasting a "lack of hope."
The perception that tribulations are pervasive means that a person sees them as covering many different life situations the person may encounter. Each new problem is seen as a confirmation of the permanence (and hopelessness) of situations experienced in the past, and thus becomes a defining factor in how all of life is viewed. Once again, in spiritual terms, it is obvious that pervasiveness erodes the virtue of hope. It actually is the work of the evil one as St. Peter of Damaskos taught: "For the devil is in the habit of promoting in the soul whatever he sees is in accordance with the soul's own predisposition whether this be ... distress or despair ..." (Philokalia III).
Personalization refers to the individuals who tend to "blame themselves" due to an inherent "permanent" and "pervasive" definition of self and thus do not cope well with the distresses of life in a functionally adaptive manner. Personalization is the combination of both the previous explanatory styles wrapped into a faulty self-definition.
It overlooks the fact that although we are broken, we still have the potential to share in the life of God. Inwardly it repudiates God's great gift of His Son. The words of St. John need to be heard and allowed into the mind and heart: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (John. 3:16-17). This knowledge awakens the sense of the inherent value all human beings possess by virtue of being created in the image and likeness of God, a creation that God deemed "good."
Similar to the psychotherapeutic techniques of cognitive therapy (Beck, A. 1991; Beck, J. 1995; Ellis, 1962; Morelli, 2006a,b ), Seligman (1990, 1995) suggests changing the interpretation of events:
Permanence. Changing perception of events from being permanent and ongoing to being limited and resolvable. For example an individual with a particularly harsh boss could say quite pessimistically: "I have the worst boss in the world and he will never change, I'll never get out of this mess." Or the person could simply state the problem optimistically as a single point in time: "My boss is in a really bad mood today, he sure won't be saying anything nice about me today."
Pervasiveness. The person with the pessimistic outlook can change from viewing events as incapable of change to problems to be resolved and solved. For example, say a worker submits a particularly difficult project to a boss who severely criticizes it. One maladaptive interpretation might be: " I am loser, I cannot do anything right, I never will be able to succeed, everything I do is bad, I am just stupid." A more adaptive view would be to see the failed project as specific: "Here is one project, I really messed up on. I think the boss was unfair but I learn from this to do better next time."
Personalization. Pessimistic individuals usually view their personalities and/or skills as fixed and immutable. When bad things occur around them they blame themselves as if the things were a consequence of something inherently within them. Certainly individuals should be made accountable for what they do, but their perception of the event has a lot to do with how they deal with it.
For example, suppose Fred breaks a long-standing friendship with his friend by stating something like: "Look John, we have nothing in common, I don't like the same things you do. In fact, my new neighbor and I have really hit it off. We see things the same way and like to do the same things. So knock it off. Find a new friend."
Suppose Fred thinks about his words to John later and says something like: "What a louse I am. I am really a horrible person. I must be the worst person in the world. How could I do such a thing? I am a hopeless, despicable individual." This is dead-end thinking. It resolves nothing.
Now suppose Fred analyzes his conversation with John in this way: "I did not tell John how I felt in a very nice way. I did not want his feelings to be hurt and they must have been. Maybe I should have explained this to Fred in a less harsh way. Let me call Fred and talk to him about it. Well, I sure learned a lesson on how to talk to people." Note the emphasis in the second analysis on corrective-behavior change without self-labeling or personalizing.
Christian Hope (Optimism)
It behooves the Christian to use the findings of research psychology to aid in psychological and spiritual growth (Morelli, 2006b) As mentioned above, following the counsel of St. Maximus the Confessor we should allow God's grace to build on nature (applying intelligence to scientific discovery). If the psychotherapeutic techniques above have been shown to be efficacious (Seligman, 1990, 1995), how much more would they aid the Christian who, through cooperation with the Spirit of God, develops the virtue of hope? Hope is the foundation of all victory over trial and distress.
Returning to St. Peter of Damaskos: "For God, as the creator of all things, knows our nature thoroughly and has ordered all things for our benefit ... if someone wants to be saved no person and no time, place or occupation can prevent him" (Philokalia III). This means that no trial, or tribulation, no matter how insurmountable it may seem, cannot be overcome with God's help.
All the brokenness in the world is transitory. In the end God's mercy and justice will prevail. The only real permanence is the God who can heal our infirmities. As St. Matthew wrote: "This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Matthew 8:17). St. John records these words of Christ: "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21: 5-7).
We have these words of Our Lord: "But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come" (Matthew 24: 13-14). This is actually a turnaround from the psychological construct.
We have these words of Our Lord: "But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and they the end will come" (Mathew 24: 13-14). This is a turnaround from the usual object of pervasive attribution. Dysfunctional individuals focus on the pervasiveness of pessimistic outcomes thus contributing to emotional disorder. For Christians, the focus of pervasiveness is the infinite goodness and mercy of God. Pervasiveness based on the virtue of hope focuses on infinite optimism of the goodness of God; a hope that is spiritually and psychologically healing because of the conviction God will triumph over all evil. Evil, sin and brokenness will end; love that endures all things will triumph and conquer all evil.
We have these words of Our Lord: But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come: (Mathew 24: 13-14. This is a turnaround from the usual object of pervasive attribution. Dysfunctional individuals focus on the pervasiveness of pessimistic outcomes thus contributing to emotional disorder. For Christians, the focus of pervasiveness is the infinite goodness and mercy of God. Pervasiveness based on the virtue of hope focuses on the infinite optimism of the goodness of God. This hope is spiritually and psychologically healing because of the conviction that God will triumph over all evil. Evil, sin and brokenness will end; love that endures all things will triumph and conquer all evil.
As St. John tells us:
And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Revelations 21:5-7).
Once again St. Peter of Damaskos showed us the way to turn around adversity: "... all things in life are twofold: day and night, light and dark, health and sickness, virtue and vice, ease and adversity, life and death. Through the help from above we in our weakness come to love God ... knowing that all things are perfectly good and beautiful (Genesis 1:31) and God orders them for our benefit" (Philokalia III).
A person without God cannot make sense of evil and brokenness in the world. Seligman, in discussing "corrective-behavior change" got it only partially right. To change for the better on a human level is good. To change by coming to love God when confronting evil and brokenness is to participate in the Divine Life itself.
Brokenness, Grace and Free Will
Here the words of St. Paul can be properly understood and applied: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Only in weakness and brokenness can love emerge. The brokenness in the world, often a source of despair, is transformed into an opportunity to empty ourselves (kenosis) from our own passions of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth and put on Christ - an emptying that reaches fulfillment in love towards God and neighbor.
Having said this, the warning of St. Makarios of Egypt rings clear: "Grace does not make a man incapable of sin by forcibly and compulsorily laying hold of his will but, through its presence allows him freedom of choice, so as to make it clear whether the man's own will inclines to virtue or to evil ... for the law looks not to man's nature but to his free power of choice, which is capable of turning towards either good or evil" (Philokalia III). Our victory over brokenness occurs in the voluntary struggle against sin that must be waged daily.
Ageloglou, Priestmonk Christodoulos. (1998). Elder Paisios of The Holy Mountain. Mt. Athos, Greece: Holy Mountain.
Beck, A.T. (1991). Cognitive Therapy: A 30-Year Perspective. American Psychologist, 46, 368-365.
Beck, J.S. (1995). Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond. The Guilford Press: New York.
Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart.
Hausherr, I. (1990). Spiritual Direction in the Early Christian East. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.
Mastrontonis, George The Holy Spirit and His Varieties of Gifts. http://www.goarch.org/print/en/ourfaith/article7080.asp.
Morelli, G. (2006a, March 6). Asceticism and Psychology in the Modern World. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliMonasticism.php.
Morelli, G (2006b, May 08). Orthodoxy and The Science Of Psychology. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliOrthodoxPsychology.php.
Musurillo, H. (1979). (ed., trans.). From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa's Mystical Writings. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Palmer, G.E.H., Sherrard, P. & Ware, K. (eds.) (1981). The Philokalia: The Complete Text compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth (Vol. 2). London: Faber and Faber.
Palmer, G.E.H., Sherrard, P., & Ware, K. (eds). (1986). The Philokalia: The Complete Text compiled by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth (Vol. 3). Winchester, MA: Faber and Faber.
Seligman, M.E.P. (1990). Learned Optimism. NY: Pocket Books.
Seligman, M.E.P. (1995). The Optimistic Child. NY: Houghton Mifflin.
Wheeler, E.P. (1977). (ed., trans.), Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.