We live in a world that attempts to avoid the realities of life—pain, difficulty, suffering. As Catholics, we are taught to embrace every aspect of life as having purpose or merit—joy and sorrow, rejoicing and grieving—and not try to hide from them. While the culture turns to every way possible to mask the “bad” parts of human existence, how might we find ways to live in reality?
First, how can we know if we are falling into this trap? Fr. Daniel Schuster, priest of the Diocese of Green Bay and regular contributor to The Inner Life®, calls it a state of “unreality” and shares one way he knows that someone might be escaping to it. “A lot of times, when someone is explaining a life situation they’re in, they spend a lot of time trying to justify it. … They might be living in unreality if it takes that much explaining, if you’re trying to convince me that it’s okay—whether it’s a relationship or it’s a habit.”
When we grasp at constant happiness and pleasure, there’s a high risk of turning to sinful and addictive behaviors to mask the pain. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, entertainment, food, and other excesses and sins may become an “escape” from the realities of the human experience.
“That unreal world could be a world where people drink too much or they soothe through other methods or sins or they look for comfort from places that are not from God that actually are harmful to them,” explained Fr. Schuster. “There’s plenty of enjoyment in this life and God is not against any of that, but the world of unreality is addictive because it is numbing and it takes us away from having to deal with certain pains.”
This might manifest itself in a far less noticeable way. When problems arise in your life, do you throw yourself into extra hours at work or binging a few seasons of The Office? Do those things bring you the comfort you are looking for, or are they distractions from problems that we should be facing head-on? “That worldliness, that’s not the answer. That’s not going to truly address what somebody needs in their heart and their soul and their life.”
One of the ways we can stay rooted in reality, says Fr. Schuster, is putting relationships first: relationships with our loved ones and our relationship with God. Rather than running from things that are terrible and painful, we should turn to our relationship with God and ask him for support.
The Evil One will try to convince you that escaping reality is better than facing it. He will attempt to trick you into taking the easy way out, a path that will lead to greater pain and regret. It’s hard to see those temptations when we’re in the thick of a difficult situation, so we must pray that God gives us grace, strength, and resolve.
Easier said that done, of course, but keep in mind that the pain of this life is terrible and temporary. For more advice from Fr. Schuster, including his response to callers who are carrying some big crosses, listen to the podcast here:
Tune in to The Inner Life® weekdays at noon-1pm ET / 9-10am PT only on Relevant Radio®.