Seeing Clearly Sr. Dorothy

From the I Ching…

It is only when we have the courage

to face things exactly as they are,

without any self-deception or illusion,

that a light will develop out of events

by which the path to success

may be recognized.


This could also perhaps be described as the path to knowing ourselves. Not an easy path. We believe we know who we are, but do we really? How clearly are we able to see ourselves?

Sometimes it is difficult to see our own gifts. And we often have a hard time seeing our own imperfections. In other words, we can almost never see ourselves as clearly as others see us. While they may not know all our history, our difficulties, our pain, the many things we struggle with in order to move forward in life, there are some things about us they can see.

The people around us can see our behaviors, which speak louder than our words. They are affected by our attitudes and actions, which may indeed cause them difficulty and pain. They see our faces, which can reveal (even without our knowledge) contentment, anger, joy, grief, compassion, sadness, and much else besides.

Sometimes we prefer to keep these emotions and moods hidden from those with whom we live and work, but it is rare indeed that they can remain hidden for long. And why do we want to hide what we feel? Maybe we’re afraid of what others will think, or that we want always to appear strong. Perhaps we don’t think we can trust the understanding or compassion of others. We may have felt hurt in the past by sharing our thoughts and feelings with someone, who then seemed to betray our trust by not holding our confidences.

Building walls around ourselves does not make for good relationships. Once those walls are in place, how do we ever begin to trust others again? And how can they trust us?

Some of the things necessary to a trusting relationship are:

  • being honest

  • being reliable in our commitments—doing what we say we will

  • taking time to communicate so that understanding is sure on both sides

  • admitting when we’re mistaken or have done something that hurt someone—and willingness to apologize and commit to choosing a different way in the future

  • being vulnerable by sharing our thoughts and feelings with another; where there is no closeness or connection, it is difficult to trust

  • keeping confidences, as we want our own kept

  • being respectful of others as individuals

  • being willing to accept the other person as who they are, not who we’d like them to be

  • showing compassion for the faults and challenges of others, as we hope they will show us

  • thinking long-term: if we want ongoing trust with a person, we must be willing to do what it takes each day to maintain that trust

  • knowing that it takes time to build trust with each person we care about, and that it is not automatic—it takes attention and a commitment to keep working at it

One of the scariest—and the best—things about being in trusting relationships with others is that we get to see ourselves more clearly. And when we see ourselves more clearly, we are able to choose which of our ways we want to keep and what to discard, that is—the path we want to take to keep on growing. The person who is trusted and trusting enough to tell us about some imperfection is also likely the one who can see through our diffidence to the gifts we could be sharing with others.

Living in a Benedictine community does not guarantee trusting relationships. But it does put us in a place where both our gifts and our challenges are clear for all the people we live with to see. The question is, will we be willing and able to see them, too, through the eyes of our Sisters?





  • Comment posted by Vicki Boeckman on February 8, 2024 at 12:24PM (4 months ago)

    Dear Sister Dorothy,
    How lovely to read your wise words. May we all strive to be compassionate, open and honest and not afraid to share ourselves with our community.
    Heartfelt gratitude,

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on February 8, 2024 at 1:48PM (4 months ago)

      thank you, Vicki! Indeed, and with all the fears we as humans seem to hold, it isn't easy--and sometimes seems TOO hard. God bless us and help us grow...

  • Comment posted by Sister Monika on January 12, 2024 at 9:32AM (5 months ago)

    Thank you for such a wise and practical approach to community living, to trusting, and to being honest and open. This is the way I WANT to be... there's always hope.

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on January 12, 2024 at 10:09AM (5 months ago)

      Yes, Sr. Monika: always a way of being to aim for!

  • Comment posted by Anna Peterson on January 12, 2024 at 8:40AM (5 months ago)

    Wow! So much wisdom and practical knowledge. You should write a book😊💕

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on January 12, 2024 at 8:45AM (5 months ago)

      Thank you, Anna...but really, if I can put just a bit of it into practice, that will take up ALL my writing time (smiles)

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