Thought. Word. Deed. One of my long term goals in life is to have these three things in perfect harmony. I have a good handle on deeds. I can be careless with my words at times. My thoughts need a keeper. I figure with time that I can at least get my words and deeds in harmony. Every once in a while I feel somewhat guilty about the thoughts that flit through my brain, especially if they are petty or unkind. This is not the person I want to be and yet still these thoughts leap out from somewhere.
Last week I read an article that made me wonder whether the thoughts matter. David Van Biema wrote an article in Time Magazine on the life of Mother Teresa. I grew up hearing of her sacrifice and dedication to the poor. Her efforts won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Recently, letters that she had sent to colleagues expressing her doubts through the years have been compiled into a book: Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk which will be released on September 4, 2007.
In these newly released letters it appears that Mother Teresa lost her faith or at least her certainty of her connection to God, soon after she started ministering to the poor. And yet, she continued, for years, decades. Her fears and doubts were shared with her mentors but her service and public persona were unwavering during these years. From the Time Magazine article it seems these letters will stir up some controversy on her life and acts. Excerpt below:
Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'"
As someone who generally considers myself atheist or at best agnostic (I lean Buddhist but practice nothing), I am left simply amazed. Here is a woman, who thought that God spoke to her, asked her to do this thing (i.e. leave her haven and minister to the poor and sick) and then abandoned her once she’d begun. In spite of this she kept at it year after year after year. Her public words and actions caused so much good, so much inspiration. She provided so much care to others. Do her thoughts matter? Do any of our thoughts matter or merely our actions? Or shall we simply judge her and be inspired by her actions?
I am inspired.