The Dark Side

by Clark Roush, Ph.D.

The fictional Dark Side has become popular due to the Star Wars phenomenon. I believe it’s easy to consider it part of the movie or story or fiction, and not realize that possible it is quite real. Maybe one of the reasons Star Wars has taken root so deeply is because it does indeed capture truths of humanity.

Reading Richard Rohr’s “Falling Upward” affirmed many things I’ve long thought and explained many more I didn’t fully understand. My brain perused my own past, and also how fervently I plead with my students to own their “dark side.” You know – all those things we think that we shouldn’t, all the things we do that we shouldn’t, all the things we say that we shouldn’t, the tendency to be jealous, the tendency to judge, the tendency to feel entitiled, the tendency to want revenge, the craving for everything to be fair – that’s what I call our “dark side.”  We are capable of incredibly wounding others – we are also capable of incredibly loving others. I believe living in that tension is inescapable. I think wanting to increasingly bless is a choice – one that demands we first admit our deepest and darkest truths to ourselves.

I plead with my students to own their dark side, because I feel that until all of us do, we haven’t given it to Christ. He knows we have it, but the moment we stop acting as though we don’t have one, it opens us up to more freely allow him to work through that part of us. And as I see the spiritual world, if Jesus is not allowed to work through it, I know who I’m defaulting to, and that scares me more than me even having a dark side.

Am I claiming that we are all inherently bad or evil. NO! I am claiming that our human nature is SO strong, and it doesn’t always lead us in the ways we were intended to go. That’s why I believe we must own it, and then give it back to the one who created us. He is far better at helping us cope and overcome than we are left to our own thoughts and plans.

So what if we don’t self-confess? I think it keeps us lodged in legalism and judgmentalism. If we can’t admit the worst in us, it’s often too easy to only see the worst in others. If we humble ourselves, it’s easier to extend grace rather than judgment to others, because after all, we all have the same tendencies, don’t we?

Reflection and contemplation are pivotal to seeing who we really are. This is an essential part of beginning to grasp the grace God has for us. We don’t need to emerge with a guilt complex about our past – just an honesty that allows God to extend mercy and love us as He wishes to. That changes a person! A substantial enough change that shame has no place at the table.

If we admitted who we are, accepted God’s mercy, and were willing then to lovingly and gracefully take others as they are, would that change our homes and churches? Is that something people are longing for? I think so.

I think that there is so much good in each of us – and it is often what emerges. I think the comfort of that sometimes keeps us from the kind of self-honesty necessary to deepen and mature our spiritual journey. This is certainly not finger-pointing — just a clarion call for transparency with our self. Demanding transparency is so much easier out of others than it is out of ourselves, but I believe the rewards are worth the effort.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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