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Posted February 14, 2012

Countering Disillusionment

By Father Eugene Hemrick

The renowned writer F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: "A new generation ... grown to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faith in man shaken." His dark picture of life is a reminder that disillusionment is forever lurking around us.

In the political world, it is common for political parties to plant seeds of disillusionment about the performance of opposing parties. In the church, attempts to overturn the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council are considered to be a major source of disenchantment for many priests and laypeople.

No matter our state in life, a pall of discouragement is cast over us if even one person or institution that we trusted becomes questionable or fails.

Undesirable side effects of disillusionment range from distrust, skepticism and diminished zest to a laissez-faire disposition and depression.

How might we keep our balance in light of this situation?

The Bible is our best place to begin.

If anyone should be disappointed with life, it should be God. Seldom does humankind fulfill his designs for them. And yet, God never loses patience. Patience is never allowing anything to break our spirit. As frequently as humankind goes astray, God never gives up on us.

Two lessons follow from this:

1. We must face the reality that humankind has failed miserably throughout history and will continue to do so. History does and will continue to repeat itself.

2. We need to imitate God and never give up on life or on ourselves.

Disillusionment tends to make us see only the negative. Sir Philip Sidney once said, "They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts," reminding us to immerse ourselves in wholesome, positive ideas and to avoid negative, destructive ideas that saturate our news and culture.

Sidney's wise saying prompts us to be forever on the lookout for healthful, constructive ideas that remind us of our dignity, self-respect and worth in the eyes of God.

Theologian Father Romano Guardini adds to this principle, encouraging us to reflect more deeply on the extraordinarily creative happenings we are presently experiencing, to always be searching for hopeful signs in the future and to feed our imaginations daily.

When Christ died, we get the sense that the apostles were somewhat disillusioned. However, when they more fully realized Christ's mission for his church, they found the exuberance needed to overcome disillusionment.

They were in a new light, and like a sunny day, they contained the power needed to lift spirits and to see the light that is beyond the tunnel.

Many other means exist for countering disillusionment. Seek them out and you will find yourself in the best state of mind in these often disheartening times.