Richard Rohr – Facing the Shadows

Face the shadow side of yourself, but do not identify with it. It represents only part of who you are. Totally identifying with the shadow leads to much evil in the world. If you live there, you will be driven and motivated by fear, guilt, shame, and even malice. So there is a difference between relating to the denied parts of yourself (bringing light to them), and totally “acting them out” (which is to leave them in their unconscious and dark state). This is why it is so foundational to know yourself, and to learn to be honest about your real motivations.

When we meet our shadow self, our response should not be anger or surprise as much as sadness. I am sure this is what so many of our saints meant by “weeping over their sins,” which to most of us seemed a bit dramatic—or impossible. We can experience days of deep sorrow after encountering what we’ve denied in ourselves for a long time. We get a glimpse of how broken and needy we are. It is a huge humiliation to the ego, and so most people just refuse to do much shadowboxing.

The hero in us wants to attack, fix, or deny the existence of our dark side. We can also be tempted to share dramatically everything about it as a way to control it (sometimes called ventilating or dumping). The saint merely weeps over the shadow and forgives it—and by God’s grace forgives himself for being a mere human. He opens his arms to that which has been in exile and welcomes it home for the friend that it often is.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men, p. 201, day 195

Prayer: I long for the light.  

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

One thought on “Richard Rohr – Facing the Shadows”

  1. Rohr, as usual, being thought-provoking! Thank you, Danut. It can be a shock, meeting one’s shadow-side – or, more traditionally, coming face to face with one’s sins, weaknesses and failings. The amazing thing about the mercy of God is that he neither hides his face from us nor allows us to cover things up before the shadowless gaze of his truth, and although he shows us our sins, we are also simultaneously conscious of his love.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s