Teachings About Divorce
83. Teachings About Divorce
In Western society, we have a different attitude about divorce than existed in Jesus’ time. Most of the cultural inhibitions against divorce have worn away, particularly when divorce is motivated by the need to get out of a harmful relationship.
However, even from our modern Western perspective, we can still bridge back and find meaning in Jesus’ words. Once again we have to start from the basic premise that underlies all of Jesus’ teachings: All life is one, interconnected, interdependent whole.
For humans, the most fundamental implication of this oneness is that we all share a common capacity both for evil and for good. When we deny that capacity – when we see only “good” in ourselves while freely projecting “evil” onto others – we split our personality in two, with the repressed aspects forming what psychologist Carl Jung referred to as our “shadow.”
It is our shadow that is the source of much of the conflict in our lives. Having rejected certain qualities in ourselves, we reject them in others as well. Conflict is therefore a signal that tells us that our shadow is at work. It is also an opportunity to look at our shadow, to accept it, and then to integrate it into our conscious personality. In doing so, we resolve the split and become, like the system that created us, “whole.” We are also less likely to project our shadow onto others, giving us the ability to see reality more clearly.
So what does all this have to do with marriage? It is a popular truism that we marry our opposite, thereby creating a union rich in potential conflict. If both parties are aware of the existence of their shadow and understand the need to bring it to consciousness, then the inevitable conflicts of marriage can provide a safe and loving environment within which that can occur. Through this process, each partner is able to integrate “the opposite” represented by the spouse, symbolically becoming, in Jesus’ words, “one flesh.”