SPIRITUAL HANGOVERS
Mother Angelica
When we think of anyone having a "hangover" our minds immediately picture someone who is paying dearly for over-indulging in alcohol. The penalty for this over-indulgence is headache, stomach ache, and a general feeling of misery. The body has given the individual involved a warning—a bodily experience of an emotional problem. The soul's lack of self-control has so influenced the bodily functions that death is thought imminent.

Any form of over-indulgence creates within the body warning signs of destruction. Too much smoking produces lung cancer, lust produces venereal disease, over-eating weakens the heart, drinking causes cirrhosis of the liver, drugs bring on mental and emotional illnesses. As serious as these conditions may be, they are visible and apparent. This is a blessing because both the cause and effect can be used by the soul. Over-indulgence can be controlled by a virtuous life and the effect of illness can be cured with medical help. The soul becomes aware of its weaknesses and lack of self-control by the breaking down of bodily functions. Self-preservation and self-love enable the soul to practice the self-control that neither God nor neighbor has succeeded in attaining for it. There is then a kind of "safety valve" for some weaknesses. When our weaknesses affect health and friendship, we are very much aware of their existence.

This is not always true of other weaknesses. Perhaps this is so because we think we are not always dealing with personal faults, weaknesses or tendencies but rather the various effects people and events have upon us. By blaming our reactions on particular persons or circumstances, we make whatever unchristian attitude we adopt appear justified. It is in this justified state of mind that we nurse and nourish our resentments, anger, hatred, regrets and guilt. It all seems so right that we never succeed in extricating ourselves from the mire of evil. Our minds, like broken records, repeat, rehearse, rehash and relive the hurts, the angry moments, and the disappointments. If this attitude continues for days, and days turn into years, we can be sure we are indulging in a bad attitude. The luxury of harboring a resentment has cost us dearly, for we are experiencing a "spiritual hangover." We are allowing something that upset our souls to hangover for months or years and destroy us.

It is self-indulgence that brings on our spiritual hangovers. A soul that deliberately harbors hurt feelings will soon experience a "hangover." St. Paul told the Galatians that anger, factions, envy, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels were classified under self-indulgence. Those who find pleasure in these tendencies and continue to nourish them in their souls, will live with a perpetual "hangover." However there are other kinds of "hangovers." These are different than the self-indulgent ones; these are the effect of imperfections, those sudden flare-ups, acts of impatience and tactless words. After indulging in these faults, a fervent soul looks back, makes an act of repentance and love and goes on as if nothing happened. However, the soul that tends to indulge in self-pity, looks back, repents, but does not drop the incident. Remorse and regret begin to gnaw at the soul. Discouragement and sadness take up residence in this temple of God and although the Spirit has not left the soul because no grievous sin has been committed, the work of the Spirit is slowed down by this "spiritual hangover." The Spirit waits until the soul forgets its feelings and can once more listen to Him.

Jesus knew we needed to rid ourselves of these long term effects. He seemed to be more interested in the effect people and things have upon our souls, than the justice or injustice of situations. This is why He said, "as for human approval, this means nothing to me."(Jn.5:41) This is why He told us to rejoice when we are persecuted and abused for His sake (Matt. 5:1 1,12), why we were to fear when the "world thought well of us." (Luke 6:26).

What is the present situation doing to us rather than for us? Is the neighbor we do not trust, the relative with a difficult personality, the work that is beyond our strength pushing us down or raising us up to greater heights? Do our emotions control us or do we control them? Is our present moment heaven or hell?

God permits the present moment and He is in that moment be it ever so difficult. We must be sure that we do not permit that moment to be the feeding ground of long term anger, resentments, regrets and guilt. These are "spiritual hangovers" from over-indulging in our weaknesses, our lack of love, our pettiness and our pride. We must see what Jesus told us to do and how to act so we do not become drunk with and suffer incalculable harm from the "spiritual hangovers" of bitterness and resentments. Let us see what Jesus told us to do to avoid over-indulging in the present moment and suffering a "spiritual hangover."

"Never let the sun set on your anger or else you will give the devil a foothold." (Eph. 4:27) We don't often think of the enemy getting a "foothold" on us for simply being angry, but the scripture passage does not tell us that the momentary outburst of anger is the "foothold." No, it is in permitting that anger to take up residence in our heart, memory and mind until and after sundown, that we allow the enemy to establish a foothold. When anger "hangs over" for hours, days, months and years, we can be sure we have given the enemy a foothold. The reason for this foothold is that we feel our anger is justified and we have every right to express ourselves in an angry fashion. This may or may not be true, but one thing is a reality, the continuous hashing over of the incident, the embellishment of every detail, and the feeling of self-righteousness disrupts the soul and makes it a vessel of hateful resentment. What is the spark that lights this fire in the soul? Are we trying to justify our anger? Do we delight in feeling superior? What makes our souls live and relive the past? What keeps us in a perpetual state of turmoil? Is it not a lack of forgiveness in our hearts—forgiveness of others and ourselves? We pick, dissect, analyze and scrutinize every offense to justify our anger or make the offender a soul beyond redemption. Whether the offense is real or imaginary, the effect of another's actions or over-sensitive disposition, the remedy is the same—forgive—and place the offender, the offended and the situation in the Heart of Jesus. St. Paul realized the importance of this when he told the Colossians, "Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same." (Col. 3:13) We are to see in the occasion the opportunity to imitate God—to manifest mercy and compassion. However, the imitation of God is often far from our minds. We demand restitution, apologies, reparation and justice done. This is not the worst. We continue to harass our souls by reliving tense situations and projecting other similar occasions in the future. We create in our soul a state of perpetual disturbance. Every other facet of daily life is seen through the haze of this "spiritual hangover." Our vision becomes double for we see the present moment only in a lopsided fashion with no light to discern God's Will. The slightest demand for sacrifice becomes intolerable in the same way the slightest noise reverberates in the head of a drunk. The inability to let go of a disappointment, a hurt, an offense or an insult gnaws at the soul until it becomes disoriented and confused. The bright and shiny "present moment" is pushed aside for the fog of the yesterday and the darkness of tomorrow.

Jesus wants us to trust Him to take care of all our yesterdays and tomorrows. He looks for souls who are willing to see the Father in every happening and then give that circumstance to Him to solve, justify, make right or straighten out. It is not easy but it is peaceful for we are bearing good fruit. God is bearing fruit within us and we have witnessed to our neighbor that Jesus dwells in us.

When we react to another's anger with gentleness we have looked upon that person's fault with understanding compassion and not in a judging manner. The one at fault is starving or hungry in some area—hungry for the word and power of God to change him. To be gentle at that moment is to feed Jesus to that soul—it is to manifest Jesus and feed that soul with spiritual food. The power of example changes and produces fruit in others. It gives them a glimpse of the attributes of God—a sample of the good things to come.

"Do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matt. 6:34)

We may not think of worry as a "spiritual hangover" but it is. Worry is the result of a lack of trust in God's care and providence. Some souls are in a state of perpetual worry. They live in a kind of frustration that is never relieved. There is darkness in tomorrow and the present moment is lived in the shadow of yesterday. Their entire lives are spent between dusk and mid night for they never see the dawn of new horizons or the bright sun of God's love and providence. This "state" of worry is what Jesus warned us about. The present moment has God within it to give us peace, sorrow that builds up courage, demands that make us virtuous and joy to take the edge off bad situations. Our trust in God must reach heroic stages if we are to be holy. Heroism is constant fidelity to our state in life. To find Jesus where we are and In what is happening, is to strive for holiness. We are to become through Grace, what Jesus is by nature, a son of God. We are to be faithful because He is always in the midst of everything. He only waits for us to ask so He may give Himself to us. He desires us to do our part, to exercise our talents, to see Him in everything and everyone.

He is not displeased with our plans for tomorrow or our utilizing the mistakes of yesterday to our advantage. However, we deprive ourselves of grace and God of glory when we live in the fear of tomorrow. That blessed awareness of His Presence and the realization of the power of His grace, will let us live for today, without fear of the future or attachment to the past. His love and care of us is deeper than the ocean and greater than the universe. He counts the hairs that fall from our head. He measures the time of our life span. His love for poor sinners forced Him to take upon Himself the humiliation of our human nature. A God who does so much for a sinner will certainly take care of every tomorrow.

"Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearse?" (Luke 24:38)

Is there anyone who would not take sides with the Apostles after the resurrection? They had seen their hopes apparently dashed to the ground. The one they loved and in whose power they believed had suddenly succumbed to weakness. Where were they to go? What were they to do? Yes, they saw Him heal the blind and raise the dead. They saw His power, but how could it be possible for a dead man to raise himself? They heard Him say He would rise, but who understood such a mystery? The horror of the last few days certainly gave them an excuse for agitation, but Jesus did not think so—He asked them "why" this agitation—why question His revelations?

Jesus would not have found fault with their sympathy over His sufferings, their realization of the horror of sin, or their repentance over their failure to support Him in His hour of need. But these sentiments were obviously not theirs. They were angry—angry at the Pharisees, the crowd, themselves and Jesus. They did not understand why He let it all happen. They doubted His power, His love and His Divinity. They were full of "spiritual hangovers." They had indulged in cowardice, they found it difficult to accept the spiritual kingdom He preached. They did not pray lest they enter into temptation. The effect of this kind of indulgence was anxiety, agitation and doubts. The pall of fear fell upon them and the more they tried to shake it off, the worse their tension became. The appearance of Jesus in their midst only added to their confusion, for they thought He was a ghost. The question Jesus asked was such a shock, they could not answer. They were so convinced they had every reason to lament, worry and grieve.

He had given them enough grace and they had seen enough proof of His Divinity not to question the way He chose to redeem mankind. He expected them to trust His Wisdom, to see the Father in every circumstance, to love the Father's Will more than themselves, their ideals and personal gain. He came to do that will. He told them many times that the accomplishment of that will would make them part of God's family. Why did they continue to doubt? Perhaps we should ask ourselves that question.

If we believe in His Love, His Redemption, His Resurrection, His Spirit and His Providence, why do we rebel, question and doubt? Why do we live in a state of confusion and fear? Why don't we let God take all the debris of our yesterdays, bury them in His Heart and watch them resurrect to give us joy, merit, peace and humility? Let us be content with the realization that He brings good out of everything because He loves us. Let us not place yesterday's Cross on top of today's, for Jesus assures us, "Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matt. 6:34)

Perhaps the greatest cause of all our "spiritual hangovers" is our inability to rise immediately after a fall and our tendency to react to situations rather than respond. We must begin to see the work of the Spirit in our Individual lives rather than the instruments He uses to change us! In our moment to moment, day to day living, the Spirit uses, permits, ordains, arranges and rearranges circumstances, people, work and every facet of our lives to purify and sanctify us. If we need patience, situations for impatience will present themselves. If we have a temper, He will give many opportunities to be gentle. In everything we can say "It is the Lord." When we fail, it is He who inspires deep repentance in our souls. We should see His Presence in our repentance, be reconciled with God and then go on living in that Awesome Love.

By seeing the hand of God working good for our souls in the present moment, we will respond to that moment with love and humility. We will be able to control our reacting emotions and prevent many "spiritual hangovers." When we fall, let us rise immediately, turn the situation to our spiritual good, repent with love and continue on with confidence in His Mercy and Goodness. Let us remember that if we see the Spirit at work in our souls in the present moment, we will respond with love, but if we only see ourselves we will react with uncontrolled emotions.

Suggested Remedies For Spiritual Hangovers

1. Become more aware of the action of the Spirit in the present moment.

2. Make a habit of seeing what the Spirit is doing for you in life situations.

3. Look at yourself objectively, receive self-knowledge with gratitude. Bless those who cause your faults to manifest themselves. It is really the Spirit showing you areas in your soul not like Jesus.

4. After a fall, rise repentant and continue on lovingly.

5. Exercise Faith by seeing the Spirit making you holy, Hope by realizing He will bring good out of everything and Love by responding with a union of Wills—His and yours.

6. Try to realize that life and all that happens during that span of time is permitted to transform you into the image of Jesus. Each moment of that time gives each of us the opportunity to change, be transformed and shine bright. The clarity of the light that radiates from us will be determined by our response to the present moment and our union of wills. If His Word lives in us and we struggle to persevere in following that Word, His Spirit will sanctify our efforts.


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