Love your neighbor as yourself. ~Matthew 12:31
I was watching “Elmo’s World” with my grandson for the umpteenth time. The kids on the show were singing a song I’ve now heard enough times to sing along. Absentmindedly humming along while I was surreptitiously reading a novel, I suddenly listened to the words – “My name is you.” Out of the mouths of babes.
I remember a blogger once posed the question of whether we are our brother’s keeper. Yes, I answered, because we ARE our brother.
Jesus’s commandment to love others as yourself, along with the Golden Rule, is common to many faiths. We get the point. And in case we don’t, we are told not only to love our neighbors, but to love our enemies. The bar keeps getting higher.
Okay, so how do I love someone who seems so unredeemably unlovable? I’m thinking of the teens who recently shot a young man to death just because they were bored. Or the teens who just a few days later savagely beat an 88 year old WWII veteran to death for whatever little money he had in his wallet. Or the men who gang raped a woman on a bus, and the driver who did nothing to stop it.
I’m serious. How far past anger and fear and judgment and despair do I have to reach into my spirit to find compassion? Sometimes very far.
I read a story about a Tibetan monk who was crying as he was being beaten by Chinese soldiers. His attackers taunted him for crying, assuming that he was crying in pain and fear. No, he said, he was crying for their souls.
Can I cry for their souls? And if I can’t, then can I cry for mine?
A few days ago marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. A beacon of light in a world of senseless violence. A light calling us to love, to forgive, to reach out, to recognize our shared humanity, to find what will bring us closer, to heal ourselves.
When we find ourselves pulling back from someone or turning away, maybe we could turn towards, look closely, and say, “My name is you.”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
~Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
related posts: Help Someone; If I Don’t Have Love; Mushroom Experience
"My name is you." This is one of the hardest lessons I have to learn, so I appreciate this post so much. It reminds me of something I read about Joseph Campbell saying we ARE our neighbor. I think it's something that we have to remind ourselves of over and over.ReplyDelete
Tina, Yes, that is very much what I meant when I responded to that blogger saying that we ARE our brother. And yes, I have to remind myself every time I catch myself reacting to someone with fear, judgement, anger, or repulsion. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Do you think we give these terrible crimes more energy by calling them out directly? Why do we need to echo these terrible things? I think the acts of violence should stay in a vacuume. But I do agree that we shoild cry for their souls.ReplyDelete
Nicole, You raise an important point. I might have used other examples that are not so dramatic. I have a hard time feeling compassion, for example, for someone who is mean to a child or an animal.Delete
I used these example, though, because I thought many people might be familiar with them and we can use them to explore our own feelings in response to these acts. The point is not to focus on the act or even on those who commit it, but rather on ourselves.
Where are those places where I lose my connection with someone else? Where I distance myself from that person with fear or condemnation? Horrible violence like the examples I used make it so easy, as individuals and collectively, to see someone as "other."
I appreciate your comment because it invited me to think more deeply about the examples I used and why I think they might be helpful to us. Thank you so much for raising this issue.
How you have filled my heart with this post, Galen, and answered so many prayers upon my lips. Why is it we don't choose to reach out when we can? Why isn't love at the top of political agendas? How can we make a change in this attitude of self-gratification instead of God-motivation? Why is the reach into true compassion such a hard one? . . . Much to think about.ReplyDelete
Loved your post, inspired to pray better and more, my friend!
May we always be an instrument of God's peace.
Thanks, Martha. I think the simple answer to your troubling questions is that we become afraid. Fear, I believe, is the root of all the choices we make that separate us from others and close our hearts to compassion. It is the razor's edge of our practice, where we have the opportunity to make a different choice. Thanks for your comment.Delete
A truly beautiful post, have thought a lot along the same line and felt deeply troubled. Heard a song on the radio the other day. One particular line went: l am seeing through my father's eyes. I don't believe l can find enough love and forgiveness in my own heart to forgive, love or even tolerate certain people, l have to see them through my Father's eyes. Gods' eyes. Pam xxReplyDelete
Pam, I like that. Sometimes we need to see with a more sacred or universal vision. Things look very different then! Thanks for your comment.Delete
A wonderful sentiment; so hard to put into practice. I guess we all keep trying . . .ReplyDelete
Tom, So true. Pam's comment above suggests that sometimes we need to step out of our own individual egos to see from a more global perspective. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Your thoughtful post reminds me of an old Jamaican expression "I is you; you is me". the wisdom of this saying first eluded me but it does remind us that we are our brother's keeper. One of my friends -- now deceased -- used "I is You" for a designer license plate to remind him that we are all joined together.ReplyDelete
Jeanette, I heard a variation of this saying just last night on TV! Thanks for sharing it.Delete
There's a great documentary out on You Tube that you may have watched called the Moses Code - and it states that when Moses saw GOD in the burning bush - he stated, I AM THAT, I AM! The comma makes it in that we are that and that and that....so yes My name is YOU! The BeYOUtiful YOU!
Wonderful post and what a better place this world would be if only.....
In loving gratitude,
Nancy, I haven't seen that video, but I will look it up. Thanks for the suggestion, and for your comment.Delete
This is true and I admit I forget this sometimes, especially when there are strangers around. I don't know whether they are really in need or dangerous. So I just ignore them and a part of me feels like it's rude but at the same time I have to be cautious and aware of my surroundings. So it's sort of like I'm torn but then I send those people peace and light in hopes that good things may come their way too.
I'm glad you're able to enjoy time with your grandson, those are such precious moments :)
Hope all is well!
However, I feel that at the right times, helping our neighbors is something we must remember to do because we must do onto others and we would like done to ourselves.
Kimberly, I think there is a difference between throwing common sense out the window and keeping our hearts open. Can we pay attention to our safety and at the same time send a blessing to those who threaten us? Can we see even people who scare us as human beings like ourselves?Delete
I'm thinking about the woman in the school office who talked down the young man with the gun and got him to surrender safely. Making a connection de-escalated the situation in a miraculous way.
Even if it hadn't, even if he was unreachable, she still saw him for what he was, a very troubled young man.
It is a challenging balance, as you pointed out. Thanks for your comment.
I'm so glad you're back.ReplyDelete
Warm hugs to you.
Thanks, my friend.Delete
Welcome back, Galen. I needed this soul food today. Thank you.♥ReplyDelete
Thanks, Corinne. Sounds like you have been crazy busy lately. Take care.Delete
Very deep today. I started feeling anger building up inside while I was reading about the violent crimes. I see I do need to work on releasing my compassion toward those who might anger me.ReplyDelete
I am off to think about your post. I hope you have a great Sunday.
Bonnie, Anger, fear, frustration, judgment--all these are common responses to such violence. This is why I think of our practice here as practicing on the razor's edge. Thanks for your comment. Hope you had a great Sunday, too.Delete
I must say I always love your posts and have missed them. The concept of loving your neighbor regardless of what evil they may have caused is challenging. However to be a true disciple of Christ, this is something we must do. I believe we are all brothers and sisters and should love one another. Of course, truly loving others isn't always easy and it is an ongoing process of developing Charity, the pure love of Christ.ReplyDelete
Blessings for another thoughtful post.
LeAnn, Thanks for your kind words, and for your wise addition to the idea in the post about loving even our enemies. I always appreciate your comments.Delete
Trying to see yourself in everything is a healthy frame of reference, and there's hardly a more important topic to discuss at any time than how much love everyone needs, so thanks for going there! I believe there is no limit to the amount of compassion the world could use. People especially are like buckets with a little hole in the bottom. There is simply never enough love to keep us full. We have individual limits to how much we can give at each age of our lives, and if we are able to give more and more freely as we age, then we are growing properly. Sometimes giving is returned in kind, sometimes it isn't. When someone returns bad behavior if you give them love it sometimes indicates they were treated poorly before, but sometimes it's design flaw, like people who can't bear being touched, physically or emotionally. An endlessly fascinating problem to contemplate, isn't it?ReplyDelete
Mikey, A "design flaw." Now that's an interesting concept! You touched on something that I think is an especially challenging part of this practice. We sometimes offer love with the hope or expectation that it will evoke a desired response in the other person. As you say, that is not always the case. In some cases, the other person might even be dangerous. So how do we maintain healthy boundaries while at the same time keeping our hearts open? Endlessly fascinating indeed. Thanks for your comment.Delete
Not sure how I feel about this subject. On one hand I believe it is imperative to forgive someone that has done something wrong to you, for your own mental survival. Senseless crimes are by people who have never evolved beyond a 3 year old mentality (mine, all about me and what I want). Although I can understand there was trouble in their upbringing, it becomes a bigger issue for the victims of the violence. Nothing is ever just black and white. I also don't feel we can take it upon ourselves and even as a nation to correct all the wrong in the world or what we perceive is wrong. We are probably correct about that, but still as I always believe, justice will be served, if not in this lifetime, it will be later...or whatever one believes in.
We do what we can as we see fit to do. I have compassion as for one human to another but I don't feel I am responsible for being "my brothers keeper". May be I would do something heroic for a stranger if the opportunity arose and face death taking the chance, but for family it would be easier to make that decision.
Okay may be I have been studying too much psychology lately, but it would be kind of boring if we all had the same opinions. The media has given us the horror facts of bizarre behavior and we should be aware of it. But they don't throw humans to the lions any more and watch for sport. Which I feel is really sick, but then again what they do to some women in countries today, that seems to be okay is also sick. (I am referring to women being stoned to death).
In my part of the world I will do what I can and try to make a difference one step at a time. It is all about passing it a long to make changes in the people we connect with.
Thought provoking post.
Mary, I have read your comment several times to take in all the thoughts and ideas. I agree that we don't all have to have the same opinions. As the saying goes, reasonable minds can differ.Delete
This idea of being our brother's keeper can mean many different things. It doesn't necessarily mean, in my opinion, preventing our brother from experiencing the natural consequences of actions. If a person is a threat to me or my family, I will take necessary precautions to protect our safety.
Another example is imposing consequences for our children's misbehavior. Being our children's "keeper" means teaching them about accountability.
So what does this mean to be our brother's keeper? I don't pretend to know what that looks like in every situation or for every person. But I guess at its most basic level, it means holding an awareness of our shared humanity. It means keeping my heart open to include all of us even while maintaining healthy boundaries. It means being responsible for the impact of my own thoughts, words, and actions on others.
Thank you so much for expanding the discussion.
Enjoyed this post as always, Galen! So inspiring and so true. We do need to love each other more and i can't think of a more important commandment in the Bible than love our neighbors. If there was more love in the world, there would be less war, less hate, less violence.ReplyDelete
We each can contribute by loving each other just a little bit more each day. Forgiving a tiny bit each day and serving a little more each day.
We are all of one spirit and one universe. If we can set aside the masks of ego, division and individualism, life will be so much sweeter.
Vishnu, Forgiving and serving a little each day--I like that! I also appreciate your image of masks that we can drop. Your inclusion of individualism as a mask to drop is interesting because in the US especially, individualism is exalted. It's an ongoing balance, isn't it? Thanks so much for your comment.Delete
Galen: You know I love you! I am a realist. I accept all the principles you refer to, but as for the bored teens and the savage gang, I have no compassion. I don't believe those principles apply to them.ReplyDelete
As spiritual as I am, and moral as I try to be, I am not very religious. Yet, respecting all beliefs, I do not understand how religious tenets can warn of punishment or Hell, while simultaneously stressing forgiveness for such sinful atrocities. It is not my place on Earth to usurp the power of a spiritual God who would surely punish them. Render unto Caesar . . .
JJ, You know I love you back! And I know we sometimes see things differently, or at least express things differently.Delete
I like to think of myself as a realist, too. I know that violence is part of the human condition, for example. I don't see compassion as a "cure" for that violence. But I do see it as a "cure" for the violence in my own heart. That violence can manifest as anger, judgment, vengeance--all the forms of separation that are rooted in fear.
So for me, compassion applies to everyone because it is not about what someone else has done or not done. I don't know how to distinguish those to whom the principle of compassion applies and those to whom it doesn't.
Compassion is not for their benefit. It's for mine. It's about keeping my heart focused on what is universal and sacred, and not giving anyone else the power to close me off from that.
And yes, I like to think that in some way that is of benefit to others, perhaps not in some overt way, but at some level. Because if we are all connected at that level, then being open to that connection invites others to open as well. But whether they do or not is not under my control. My compassion is not dependent on what anyone does or does not do. At least in theory!
As for religion, don't get me started!
Thank you for your comment, as always.
Galen: Your response is fantastic! I like it better than your post. You are wonderful.Delete
JJ, As I've said before, you are a big sweetie.Delete
Galen, This is such a beautiful thought. I have always thought that we see an image of ourselves when we look in another's face. If we see a frown or anger maybe it because that is what we are feeling ourselves. True?...maybe sometimes.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the contact.
Barbara, That's a good observation about seeing our own reflection in others. We pick out what we want to see. Thanks for your comment.Delete