Being human, truly human, is an enterprise that I believe we are all on. There are cultural customs that will often stop this process, or slow it down considerably. We are like rough pieces of furniture, unvarnished, waiting for the finishing touches to be applied so that we can be what we were made to be. How do we fail? All that is needed is to look at any cultural throughout history, or religion, or philosophy and yes ideologies, to see how easy it is to fail. They seem to need to have an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. Today that seems to be getting worse. Even the New Atheism that is purported to bring some rationality to mankind is turning into just another ideology that separates us even further; they are after all ‘brights’, which makes the rest of us ‘dims’ I suppose. There seems to be no end to it.
There are people with whom I have met who show the way. They have something about them that invites openness and trust. They listen, seek to understand and do not think they have to change others. Though they may have deep roots in a religion, or other system of belief, to which they hold to with their whole heart, mind and soul. They are not threatened by other people’s paths, but seek to learn from them, and to also impart some of their wisdom. These persons are often quiet and will not share their insights unless they are asked; such is their respect for others. They do not need to write about themselves or their struggles, they just ‘are’.
They are this way because they know themselves, their struggles and also they have no illusions on what they are capable of if they ever lose their way. They know this about themselves and because of this, they are accepting of others, loving and compassionate when they fail or fall away. They are in touch with reality and are not brittle when it comes to experiencing the fear, pain and darkness in others. They stay with their group, their religion or ideology and seek to transform it from inside, instead of leaving and become angry and self righteous. They can’t because they know themselves.
There are of course times when leaving a group is necessary, the problem is in knowing when it is right to do so, or not. Each has to discern that on their own.
They have humility, a virtue that is often mocked and ridiculed, that is until they meet one of these people; which are more numerous than one would think. I am still on the way and have not yet reached that place, perhaps I never will, but when I meet people like this it gives me hope and a deeper trust in God’s love for all of us. We can be lights for another, instead of becoming nags. My inner nag is still alive and kicking, but I have learned to no longer hate that part of me, it is a very young part, trying to make me believe in its immature rantings. I have found loving that parts of me, more helpful than trying to repress it, or treat it as some kind of demon within my soul. It is a wound, one that is healing…..perhaps we are all like that, slowly healing hopefully as we mature and move toward the event that will encapsulates our whole lives which is of course our death.
The more we know ourselves; to face our inner light and darkness without running away, the more we understand others as well…..this leads to mercy and love, for ourselves and others. To know all, is to forgive all. If we try to live the quote below, there will be little time to looking down and judging others…it is a hard struggle, at least for me and my failures to do deter me from my endeavor to grow in the love of God and others.
(13 Cor 4-13)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.