Mad Men’s Lesson on Ignatian Awareness

headphonesIgnatian spirituality seems to be all about looking. We look for God in the ordinary, in our feelings, in the people and things around us. But sometimes we look too hard for God rather than being aware of the surprise moments God’s presence is made known.

In the premiere episode of this season’s Mad Men, Peggy is trying to recover from a failed tag line for a TV commercial created for a set of headphones. Her team tries too hard throwing out one-liners in the effort to please her and the client. It’s like those who flip through the Bible as if a medicine cabinet, searching for the “perfect” verse that makes them feel good. We can’t go searching for God that way. Often, the grace of God comes in not looking.

Peggy discovers her grace without even looking. In their filming for the commercial, the actor wearing the headphones had some outtake moments, foolishly making faces as if singing to the music in the headphones. When Peggy sees this film she discovers a brand new way to approach the ad. The answer has come in the least expected of places: the discarded footage. This is how the God of surprises works. Rather than trying to force God’s grace, we must allow ourselves to be aware enough to see the grace already there. In Mad Men some of the characters’ best ideas come from out of the blue, when they’re not wracking their brains.

Awareness is not the same as looking. Looking tries to force answers and force God’s presence. Awareness, on the other hand, means we are open enough to let God make a move and attentive enough to recognize it. The same holds true for prayer. When we force prayer we often will not find God. But having a keen awareness means that we can recognize those moments when prayer just happens. This is what Ignatian spirituality is about, an awareness that opens our eyes to see God, who is always around us.

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Andy Otto
Andy Otto is an Ignatian blogger and spiritual director. He currently works in adult faith formation and retreat direction at a Jesuit parish and retreat center in Atlanta, GA, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Andy is the author of God Moments and holds a master’s degree in theology and ministry from Boston College.


  1. I have been trying so hard to hear the voice of God lately. I so needed your message today. Thanks for giving me a different perspective.
    Did you write your comment just for me? 🙂 It always comes back to control with me.

    • Linda, I think that many of us feel safer if we are in control; however, for me there was a day when I realized that I had no ability to control what was happening and all that I could control was my decision to trust. It did not come easily and I still wage that battle at times – but I’m getting older and tire more readily!!

  2. That’s so true! Our God is a God of surprises…That’s a really great reminder about being aware of his presence in our daily circumstances…being open to his Spirit…welcoming his Grace in Our lives….Wow…Awesome and Present God!

  3. When we are looking, then we are in control; however, when we are aware, we give God the freedom to surprise us with God’s presence and that is so incredibly powerful in our lives. Thank you for the reminder to be open and to let God choose how and when to speak.

  4. This is a great parallel.
    Mad Men is so filled with darkness and light that it could probably serve as a 21st century primer for Ignatian spirituality.


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