For years, in times of stress and pain, Brian Busse, SJ, would find a quiet place to smoke a cigarette or two. A bad habit to be sure, but it was the first step in the direction of reflection and self-awareness. He quotes the Jesuit Anthony de Mello: “Be grateful for your sins. They are carriers of grace.”
Smoking became a path into devotion. It asked me, sometimes demanded me, to find a place apart, a few moments of solitude. It required me to breathe. It gave me a sense of self reflection. It required equal parts honesty and self-deception. A smoker (if she’s not totally delusional) confronts mortality. A smoker might begin to ponder their self-destructive habits with greater transparency. They may know when or why they smoke – to light up admits the need, admits the trigger. There may be self-deception – I can stop any time. I’m freely choosing this. – but even here is an opportunity for honesty. We accept that we’re conflicted.