Hell is other people.
Many say that this quotation from Sartre is his most famous and most misunderstood. Of course, the people who claim the misunderstanding are probably the same people who say that we don't get Nietzsche. I think people get both men precisely which is why they end up being rejected while their defenders claim they are misunderstood.
The popular understanding or misunderstanding of Sartre's line is one we know to be true. Other people can be a real pain to us for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the flaw belongs to those others. Perhaps the flaw belongs to ourselves. Either way, the people in our lives don't always serve to make our lives pleasant. This quotation from St. Josemaria Escriva serves as a sort of antidote to Sartre's line:
What I can say without a doubt is that my life is full of people that sanctify me. To give one potent example, a certain person told people that I had left a mess somewhere. In this detritus were pieces of chicken. He claimed that I had left this mess. He said that I eat chicken all the time and even shared a piece with him. The story is amusing because everyone who knows me will tell you that I do not eat meat. But this person did not know it, and he had outed himself as a pathological liar.
I have become used to the fact of being calumniated. I share the story because it is amusing. There is usually a space of time between the calumny and the vindication. In this instance, the vindication was almost instantaneous. It would be nice if it was always like this, but it isn't. Some calumnies won't be corrected until Judgment Day.
When people talk badly about you, it can serve to sanctify you in two ways. The first way is that it will serve as correction if it is true. The second way is that it will serve as mortification if it isn't true. You bear the insult with equanimity just as Christ bore His insults and still bears them.
The biggest issue I have comes from the fact that my sanctification comes from scoundrels and hypocrites. For instance, I was criticized for complaining too much. I am too "negative." Basically, I am honest about things which serves as an antidote to the delusion of "positivity." For instance, management types will try and tell you to be "positive" about a matter that will result in you taking it in the shorts. When you object, you are being "negative." The reality is they are liars, and I am not a liar. Negative thinking is just reacquainting these people with reality.
I don't think it is possible to take profitable spiritual direction from people who are not believers or even care about living for Christ. The Devil loves to point out your flaws, but his aim is to discourage you from the path. His intentions are to tear you down and chew you up. Likewise, the servants of the Devil do their master's work.
Before I go into work, I have to remind myself that I am being sent to be devoured by wolves. This is not a positive or cheery thought, but it is an honest one. Two things will happen. I will either be imperfect, and these wolves will pounce on the imperfection. Or, I will be perfect, and these wolves will simply lie about my imperfections. This was the experience of Christ in this world who was perfect and perfectly hated.
In my last SOC post, I wrote about taking "digital sabbaths." Basically, I turn off my devices and stay off the internet. I devote my entire Sunday to creating a space for contemplation. I turn off the world and tune into God. How has it gone? It has gone very well. I have only done it twice, and it felt like I was taking a nice hot shower after a long sweaty day of work. It provides a relief and a sort of mental and spiritual cleanse. Conversely, I feel a certain liberation during the rest of the week to read with abandon on the internet. Just as there is work and rest, there is flow, and there is contemplation. The Sabbath is the antidote to workaholism, digital fatigue, distraction, and all the rest. The problem isn't technology or the internet. The problem is that we do not honor the Lord's Day and make it holy. There is a reason God wants us to keep the Sabbath.
I am weathering Hurricane Matthew as I write this, and I am going to post now before I lose power again. Sorry for not writing more this week. I have been extremely busy.