“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly smear on your own. Do you. have the Neve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier–than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Chapter 7)
What a world it might be if we could all chill a bit. We take ourselves much too seriously. We are easily offended or angered by what others say or do, or even how they look. When I speak of ‘we’, I include all of us – it seems to be tied to our sense of tribalism – what we learn as we grow up and then hang on to, no matter what the consequences happen to be. It is extremely difficult to be objective about our world or life – we take it very personally. As we grow up, we experience others; family, friends, people of all kinds that influence us in our thinking. We want to be accepted or approved of so we tend to go along with what everyone around us is saying or thinking and rejecting all opposing viewpoints. The world that we create for ourselves is the one that we struggle to hang on to and presume that other worlds are negative or wrong.
At times, we need to question ourselves: how do we look at others who might be of a different skin color? – different religion? – ethnic background? – economic class? – educational level?- sexual identity?-profession or job?, political viewpoint or whatever box we build to categorize people. When we judge others, we tend can be jealous of them or angry at them, judging them to be somehow different. We compare! In this, we are unable to look inward and to accept ourselves for who we are and who we are becoming. We judge the destitute, the street people, those who have severe learning needs, or cultural or psychological limitations and assign them the lowest rung on the ladder, giving thanks that we are not like them. It is so easy to demonize others.
Mental Illnesses of all kinds interfere with human behavior and acting out is symptomatic of deep rooted illnesses that we have no understanding of. Human limitations and weaknesses are buried in both the human body and the human brain – and within human culture itself. We are afraid of others – who are different – and like to pretend that we are what is too easily described as normal. We are the good guys and they are the bad guys!
It one thing to disagree with other viewpoints or ideas; to disagree with the way we see the world, but the problem arises when we demonize the other and move well beyond the surface – Millions of people have been killed over disagreements about religious beliefs and practices – heretics have been burned at the stake or ostracized – pushed away from the table due to different visions of philosophy, theology, diet, clothing, etc. We like to make mountains out of mole-hills in order to justify our own life stance. We get insulted when others disagree with us and strike back with swords and cannons.
Careful reading of the Gospels teach us to chill out and not worry too much about what others think or do. A fundamental lesson is to be more concerned with what we think or do; how do we re-act; how do we treat others? Do we work to feed the hungry – those who hunger physically, but also mentally, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually? Do we work to heal the wounds of those who are broken – wounded physically, mentally, spiritually? Can we admit to ourselves that we are indeed broken, wounded and hungry ourselves – that we are limited, human beings, walking together and sharing a common humanity. We are not finished products; we are in the process of becoming. Becoming what? It is good to remember that creation is a verb and not a noun; it is active and shifting and we are part of that and need each other. We have a common Genesis and a common Kingdom of God that binds us together and we need each other. We need diversity and differences; we need to engage in the struggle to understand the mystery of life; of existence itself. Each person, each living plant and animal reflects the wisdom and love of God.
At this time of Advent, it is good to stop for a minute and understand that God entered into Creation – and still walks with us in our common humanity, warts and all. We need to learn how to relax, laugh, sing and dance. We are called to proclaim the Good News of God entering into creation in an active way and leading us to the fullness of life. Life is not a series of either/or moments or experiences; it is a continual process of both and. None of us holds the total truth about anything, including ourselves. But we all have a small sliver of truth and when we share, our blindness begins to recede and we learn how to see – how to understand the wonder of a God far beyond our imagination, but who empties herself in giving life.
Listen; pay attention; look; and see the wonders of creation everywhere; coming to be. We are all pregnant with life coming to be born and engaged in our common struggle of possibility.