faith in action

Words That Heal

"This is a deeply divided world."

We often hear, “This is a deeply divided world.“

The world is full of anger. Abusive and violent behaviors are everywhere. Anxiety and fear abound. Loving and fun spaces are hard to come by.

Everyday interactions easily devolve into the lowest common denominator of self-righteous behavior and even violence.

In the midst of all of this, I find myself on a journey of discovery for a better way.

A few weeks ago, I overheard a bit of a conversation between two young men.

One was an active, good-looking cyclist wearing stylish gear on a cool bike. The other one was sporting a black t-shirt which read, Sons of Liberty. He had vivid tattoos, muscular arms and a black helmet. They were cautiously discussing the #metoo movement.

Each explained, in short, why he thought what he thought. It appeared that they came from very different cultures, political points of view and parts of the U.S. (my assumption) and held different perspectives.

As they parted ways, the man with tattoos said, “Thanks for listening to me. I want to understand.”

I was struck by the gentle, respectful, humble encounter in a very unsuspecting place.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt is an enlightening, albeit dense read. The evidence and insight he provides are helpful. He asserts that we are all “self-righteous hypocrites.” Explaining why and how he makes the assertion, he cites two sources for spiritual teaching.

From Matthew 7:3-5:

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

From an 8th Century Chinese Zen master:

The Perfect Way is only difficult
For those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike;
All will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference,
and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you,
Never be for or against.
The struggle between “for” and “against”
Is the mind’s worst disease.

Haidt goes on to say that a world without moralism, gossip and judgment would decay into chaos, but we can step back and examine the game we’re playing. The game between for and against is a struggle that plays out in each of our righteous minds and among all of the righteous groups.

I want to continue my journey of moving away from for and against. I want to live into more grace-filled and respectful interactions. And I pray that you’ll join me.