Father Richard reminds us that when we listen to the voice of God, we are given the grace to “pass it on” to others:
We must receive all words of God tenderly and subtly, so that we can speak them to others with tenderness and subtlety. I would even say that anything said with too much bravado, overassurance, or with any need to control or impress another, is never the voice of God within us. If any thought feels too harsh, shaming, or diminishing of ourselves or others, it is not likely the voice of God. Trust me on that. That is simply our egoic voice. Why do humans so often presume the exact opposite—that shaming voices are always from God, and grace voices are always the imagination?
If something comes toward us with grace and can pass through us and toward others with grace, we can trust it as the voice of God.
One holy man who came to visit me recently put it this way, “We must listen to what is supporting us. We must listen to what is encouraging us. We must listen to what is urging us. We must listen to what is alive in us.” I personally was so trained not to trust those voices that I think I often did not hear the voice of God speaking to me or what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature.” Yes, a narcissistic person can and will misuse such advice, but a genuine God lover will flourish inside such a dialogue.
We must learn how to recognize the positive flow and to distinguish it from the negative resistance within ourselves. It can take years, if not a lifetime. If a voice comes from accusation and leads to accusation, it is quite simply the voice of the “Accuser,” which is the literal meaning of the biblical word “Satan.” Shaming, accusing, or blaming is simply not how God talks, but sadly, it is too often how we talk—to ourselves and to one another. God is supremely nonviolent, and I have learned that from the saints and mystics that I have read and met and heard about. That many holy people cannot be wrong.
If we can trust and listen to our inner divine image, our whole-making instinct, or our True Self, we will act from our best, largest, kindest, most inclusive self. There is a deeper voice of God, which we must learn to hear and obey. It will sound like the voice of risk, of trust, of surrender, of soul, of common sense, of destiny, of love, of an intimate stranger, of your deepest self. It will always feel gratuitous, and it is this very freedom that scares us. God never leads by guilt or shame! God leads by loving the soul at ever-deeper levels, not by shaming at superficial levels.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019), 87, 88–89; and
A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 141.