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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

We can’t deeply experience hard pride or shame without believing people are more or less worthy based on our behavior, our beliefs, or even just how we were born. To allow ourselves to feel superior or inferior, we must first embrace the idea we are separated from one another by our fortunes or failures. This idea is harder to hold onto each time we feel that spark of true connection from one heart to another. Each moment of pure acceptance of the divine beauty inherent in the human soul.

It is important for us to do our best to live up to our ideals for ourselves, and maintain a self-awareness that helps us recognize and remedy where we’re slipping. It is equally important that we practice patience and lovingkindness along the way, recognizing that who we are — our innate human worth — is eternally true regardless of what we do or say. We are not our successes. We are not our failures. The types of Pride and Shame that try to mark and set us apart based on such things are hamartia, missing the mark.

We are each human beings, learning to do the best we can with what we carry inside us. The ideas, experiences and opportunities that come to us shift from moment to moment, and we can’t reach out to them if we’re holding onto our judgments of what we thought we had just a moment before.

This applies both to judgments of others, and of ourselves. Love one another, as we love ourselves. That’s the path of wisdom, and the way ahead toward our truest selves.

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I’m not sure how I missed it, but I only just now read about the book “The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, that’s been out for some time. In it, they make the claim that analytical philosophy is dead, because it has failed to keep up with what science can tell us. Instead, we must turn to science to understand our origins and meaning.

I find that kind of funny, because I was talking just yesterday with someone about how dogmatically rigid science can often be. This is increasingly true lately, when funding is (again) driven primarily by corporate or other entrenched interests who benefit from squashing challenging viewpoints before they can even obtain credentials. It’s human nature to try to protect the world one believes one knows to be true, and to feel personally threatened when attacked by competing views.

Good philosophers know this. Not to say that it’s always easy to remember, of course. Philosophy, like any other field, has had its own tendencies to fall into a “defensive phalanx” of what’s considered Serious & Proper. This means it sometimes gets stuck in an echo-chamber rut that doesn’t exactly keep in touch with the humanity it is supposed to explore. You know, like any other field.

And that brings us back to science.

Science, at its purest essence, is expanding the sphere of the observable, and refining the ways in which we record those observations. The way they’re recorded have a direct impact on the way they’re utilized, and the consequences they wreak on human experience. Because of this, it is vital that scientists become acutely aware of the schema they are holding in their minds while making and interpreting these observations. When “doing science”, we must continually be questioning not only the data, but ourselves, and the ways our own histories and expectations are shaping what is being observed. Yet I have found this level of self-awareness to be in the minority far too often.

Spend any amount of time reading scientific studies and journals and the backstories of how data is included, omitted, misrepresented… soon you will see how very human science is, and how heavily discouraged is the practice of questioning predominant assumptions. This is so frustrating because of the truly talented scientists I’ve been around who are also well-read philosophers, and really should know better. But still, they put their dogmatic faith into “the purity of science”, as though the data and developments they were working on were etched into stone tablets without the taint of human error. Not all scientists fall into this trap, certainly, but this kind of arrogance is too often encouraged, endangering the effects of scientific work.

What really boggles me is the idea that “science” and “philosophy” are again considered separable. How did that happen? The very foundations of science are from curious and patient philosophers who stayed with the workings of their minds long enough to find new ways to observe things about how our world works. The best developments in philosophy have been from those who have turned to the world and used those observations to refine the ways the mind perceives. Both are really just ways to find out details and make sense of them, using very slightly different methodologies. They’re not even “two sides of the same coin”, they are a marble: a single sphere with occlusions that play shapes within the clarity depending on the angle. You can hold it up to the light to see the patterns, or flip it against the ground to see how it bounces, but it’s all the same game (unless you lose it).

Not to say that trying to put a hard division between “study of things” and “study of people” is just a modern thing. Socrates would have a lot to say about that, and the editors at Wikipedia summarized this better than I could:

A major turning point in the history of early philosophical science was the controversial but successful attempt by Socrates to apply philosophy to the study of human things, including human nature, the nature of political communities, and human knowledge itself. He criticized the older type of study of physics as too purely speculative, and lacking in self-criticism. He was particularly concerned that some of the early physicists treated nature as if it could be assumed that it had no intelligent order, explaining things merely in terms of motion and matter.

The study of human things had been the realm of mythology and tradition, and Socrates was executed.

Science, “Philosophical turn to human things” subsection in Wikipedia

Studying things can be hard. Studying oneself is harder. This is why it is so very important we not let ourselves off the hook of continually examining our conclusions just because we have numbers and data. This makes it equally important for the study of the mind to keep up with to the conclusions that are now being made in the rapid churn of modern life.

As a field, philosophy must certainly study what is being observed about our world, from scientific and political and religious and every other way the mind plays with experiencing. We must remain aware of what has led us to these points, and the assumptions we’re bringing with us. This is especially true in the field of science, where we are finding brilliantly refined measures of the physical that don’t bring their context with them. We provide the context, we interpret what it means. And we do so from the foundation of the assumptions we’re holding, and how we react when they are challenged.

If science is to continue providing meaningful guidance in understanding and shaping our world, it must maintain a firm grounding in the insights found in mental, social and emotional study. If philosophy is to serve as a lighthouse in understanding and shaping our work and our lives, it must be continually incorporating what we are learning about the physical. All types of knowledge, all observations are integral to one another, and must be woven together for us to understand the picture before us.

Call it science, philosophy, literature or religion. It all comes down to the same thing, and each of us are doing it every day. We’re all playing the game of experiencing life; it’s long past time to stop considering different fields of study as opposing teams.

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I want to take just a moment to mention “those people”.

You know whom I mean.

They just don’t seem to be able to learn, do they?

And yet, aren’t they also walking their own path through this human existence? Aren’t they facing their own challenges, struggling with their own ways of overcoming that gnawing feeling inside that something isn’t quite right? Don’t they share our same potential for realizing the essential nature of humanity as simply beautiful expressions of earthly experience?

In my perspective, this makes “those people” vital members of “our family”, who are just as essential to the growth of this planet as I. There are ways I wish they’d walk their paths differently, but I must accept they feel the same way about me. In fact, I often feel the same way about me. I don’t feel qualified to judge, only to practice patient forgiveness with what frustrates me about them… and then also with myself for my own frustrations.

All I can do is love them through their struggles, and support them in their moments of pure growth. That’s what family is for.

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I find myself wanting to write about gratitude, and am trying to think of what I want to say about it.  Gratitude has become such a daily habit for me, I recognize it as a crucial part of my life.  In fact, I think I’ll write about how that came to be.

A while ago I read about the importance of a “gratitude practice”, in which we take moments throughout the day to feel grateful toward something or someone.  It really struck me because it wasn’t talking about gratitude the way I usually heard of it: you know, something that was expected of us.  Instead, it spoke of gratitude as a gift we give to ourselves, to enrich our own experience of life and those around us.

The deeper meaning of gratitude isn’t just to fulfill an obligation to recognize the blessings in our life.  Rather, it’s to more fully allow them to BE in our life.  By opening our hearts in gratitude, we open the space to receive more fully.  We do more than repay the kindness with that lightspark of gratefulness; we create room in our hearts to take in more.

There’s a harmonization that occurs within a grateful heart.  We complete that link within ourselves that connects us to a higher, more receptive resonance.  That’s why it’s important to pause even within the most frustrating or painful experiences and find a way to be grateful — not for the event itself necessarily, but for being blessed with what you need to endure and overcome, and maybe for what you will have learned and gained for having done so.  Does that make sense?  By finding a way to open a space of gratitude in our heart, we receive more of what it is that we need.

And that leads to the flipside of gratitude as well: the willingness to share wisely and well.  If we are to keep the flow open to receive, we must give what is needed of us (and we can wisely spare) to others.  This does two things.  First, it gives others the opportunity to connect with us through gratitude, opening their hearts as well.  Second, as we complete this connection of gratitude, we open ourselves to receive more so we have more to share.  It’s a full circle, one that keeps itself turning one we learn to get it going inside us.

Exploring that perspective truly has enriched my life, and yes, I’m grateful for that!  I’m also grateful for the opportunity to share this with you.  May it open something inside you that will help you enrich the lives of others, as well.

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Lately I’ve been thinking of how often the Bible recounts Jesus saying, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” I really do think that’s the real commandment from the New Testament, and it’s what I personally feel is what it means to be a Christian. Love one another. The rest is just ways to explore and express that fundamental duty to Love.

Today I was thinking about how it’s been pointed out that Jesus doesn’t say, “love others as you love yourself”, but love others “as I love you”.  I find that a very important point. The stories of Jesus paint the picture of a very deeply loving person who embraced the essential pricelessness of each human being, regardless of who they were or what they’d done. It was a gentle, giving love, with no end to its warmth and depth.

We don’t always know how to love ourselves properly. We judge ourselves too harshly, and feel our faults and failings too keenly. Because of this, it can be hard to have pure love for others, because we can only feel toward others feelings that we already have in our own hearts.

So as I go through my day, I try to keep my eyes and heart open to the signs of divine Love. I try to feel that sense of unconditional acceptance and treasuring that is our birthright, given to us freely without the possibility of becoming unworthy. I try to hold that in my heart, and allow myself to accept its warmth, its comfort. In this way, I have a feeling of sincere caring that I can then share with those around me, to the extent they are open to receive it.

And I’ll tell you, the more I’ve practiced, the more I’ve found others’ hearts opening to that possibility of being something more than they’d allowed themselves to believe. I’m telling you this because with the path you’re now walking, this practice here may help you reach those around you a little better. Maybe not in the way you’d expected, but probably in exactly the way they need. So seldom do we get to see what our time in others’ lives has left them with, that it can be a real test of faith in the idea that we’ve done our part well, and leave the rest up to powers greater than we.

Love you muchly,

~ Nyn

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I’ve often heard songs and poetry written to express Love to the Divine, and wondered what it would be like to have messages of Love from the Divine to us.  Below are the thoughts that came out of this wondering, which I wish to share with You. ~ Nyn

My dearest child,

Above all else, I desire for You to know how deeply, eternally, and unconditionally I Love You.  You are infinitely precious to me, and the Love I have for You is uniquely Yours.  Nobody else has exactly the relationship to me that You do, and this makes You irreplaceably special.  To me, You are a treasure beyond price.  Whatever else You may think of what You see or experience, please always remain open to the warm feeling of Love in Your heart.

In the end, the one eternal answer is Love.  Love is what helps You feel more deeply connected to Your inner self, and through that core, the inner selves of all who are around You.  Through the connections of Love, I have meaning in Your world.  Through these connections, You heal the deep wound across creation that is Separation.

I wish to take a moment now to apologize to You for Separation.  When You came into being, I never meant for You to feel Separate from me, nor from those around You.  You were born to provide a unique experience of Existence through Your own special Lens, but more in the sense of those in the eyes of a fly that work in unison to create the whole picture.

You were meant to be an individual, yes, but as one aspect of a unified whole.  Some level of boundaries were necessary for You to individuate, but these divisions are illusory and were never intended to be mistaken for real.  Yet for reasons as varied as each one of You, my children, these illusions gained power over You.  They created in You a feeling of being cut off from me, from Your siblings, and, most tragically, from Your own Divine core.  And since this Separation prevents You from feeling Your own core self, You instead feel the Void, leaving You vulnerable to the hurtful desperation of emptiness inside.

This causes You immense pain, which causes me pain, as well.  When You were first created, I promised You Love.  I promised that I would always honor You and called for You to be one within me.  Yet when the Separation arose, I didn’t dispel its hurtful delusions.  I didn’t want to interfere with Your progression and risk destroying Your individuation in the process.  Perhaps that was wrong, or perhaps it was a necessary process for You to grow into the beautifully strong and resilient soul You are.  Regardless, I see the pain that this Separation has caused, and for that I am immensely sorry.

I promised You Love, but instead You felt loneliness and pain.  I wanted to embrace You in unity, but allowed You to feel Separate and powerless.  If You have it in Your heart to forgive me, I ask that You please allow forgiveness to send away that pain, and replace it with a resonance of my Love for You.

No matter Your answer, I want You to know that I forgive You for every harm You may ever have caused Yourself or another, because I know that such sins arise only from this feeling of Separation.  I also wish to ask You to please forgive Your siblings for any harm they cause, because they also act in response to this Void inside that they never asked for, and also do not fully understand.

Please work to prevent harm and heal what has been done wrong, but if You can, do so through a labor of Love for all involved.  Even if you can’t always voice the Love you feel in your heart, it will help clear away the Separation from around their own hearts, helping them have a new opportunity to make things right.  Their choices remain their own, but your Love will help me complete the circle that encompasses You all, sealing our family with the healing light of unity.

I ask You to practice this Lovingkindness for me, because You are the expression of my power in Your world.  I can Love each one of You wholly and completely, but You must forge your own connections among one another to strengthen the web of life in which you each are a nexus point of pure and shining light.

This is why You, personally, are so vitally important.  I need You to fulfill your greatest potential, so that all existence can become brilliantly complete.  The success of this world can be forged only when each one of You lends it your strength.  Just as one burned-out-bulb dims the whole display, it is important that You find Your light and allow it to shine.

And, my dear, precious, beloved child, I so dearly want for You to shine.  I need for You to look inward  and find that your beautiful, innermost center has always been there, patiently awaiting re-discovery.  I wish for You to realize that Your very core is a contact-point of pure and powerful Light, shining forth a brilliant Love that can never be diminished, and will never leave You.

As You allow this Love to shine within You, healing the Separation, You will glow with the Divine Connection that is Your birthright.  I promised You Love.  Please, with my gratitude, allow Love to now permeate Your daily life, that it may heal and transform Your world.

Thank you, my darling child, for being who You are.

In Loving Light,
Me

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I once read of an Eastern method of transformation that involved starting with the presumption that you are there already.  Whatever it is you seek, whoever it is you wish to be, the idea is to recognize that these are already in place for you, and therefore the first step is gratitude and receptiveness.  And then, for all the steps that follow, they are placed with the single-mindedness of purpose to continually express that gratitude and receptiveness by acting in accord with these gifts that are already a part of you.

Now, I’m three-hundred percent on board with the idea that you need to keep your mind and heart open to refining your goals, no matter what they started off as.  So you need to not get so into your original picture of what you think you’re seeking that you miss internal clues as to how it needs to adjust.  All that said though, it’s always helped me when I’ve worked toward my goal with the feeling of peace and gratitude for all that I have already received.  In some cases, it really has been a matter of relaxing into this gratitude, and seeing where I really already am there.

My best example is back when I was having a really tough time.  I had been married only a few months when I came down with hyperacusis, and had to go on unpaid leave for a few months while because I wasn’t getting the support I needed from the AOL technical support center I was working at when it developed.  (They retrained me from a phone rep to an email rep, but were pretty unhelpful for getting me a quieter work environment or even short-term disability while I stabilized.  I was young and hurting and in utter shock, so I didn’t know enough on how to even make sure I got help with the medical bills then.)  However I managed to get them to let me go back to work with some minimal efforts toward getting me a remotely quieter place to work with earplugs and earmuffs.

Anyway, all that was just to illustrate why, for me, it was tough, and it was painful, and it felt completely unfair.  I had just started my life, and was told that I’d be spending the rest of it locked in a sound-proof room — they hadn’t even developed the noise training back then.  Fortunately, my husband refused to let my life go that route, and was very supportive as I tried hard to feel out how to make things work.  But I still was having a hard time feeling positive.

So I figured, why not go ahead and act as though I was?  I decided that whenever I saw someone, I’d give them a genuine smile that said I was glad to see them.  Whenever I could, I’d notice something to appreciate that I could sincerely compliment them on.

And you know what?  People started being glad to see me, too.  They smiled at me, and treated me with a little more kindness.  This made it easier to feel more positive toward myself, too, and made my workplace a less uncomfortable place to be, despite the physical pain.  It also helped me be more successful there, as it was easier to focus on doing great work when I was feeling good.  I ended up quitting the job because it was easier for me to work somewhere else than fight for reasonable accommodations, but I left feeling as though I had made the best of things that I could at that time.

I’ve had some pretty tough fights since then because of my hyperacusis, some of which I’ve walked away from into better situations.  But as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I don’t feel greatly limited by my disability, because it’s easy for me to focus on what I can do, most of the time.

This level of success was made possible only because way back then when hyperacusis first entered my life, I was able to set my mind not on where I didn’t want to be, but where I did want.  And then, I acted in accord with this vision as though I was already there.  It hasn’t always worked, but it’s done the trick more often than not.

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Yesterday, I talked about each of us being a specially unique piece in the big puzzle of life.  And I think that’s actually a pretty perfect analogy.  Each of us has a different shape, a different size, and a different pattern, comprising an integral part of the big picture.

And yes, this means you.  You, specifically, are necessary for the success of this world we all live in.  There is something unique about your exact combination of insights and experiences that only you can explore.  There’s a special kind of understanding to be found from living in your exact spot in the world, that only you can sort out.  The simple fact that you are here puts some hefty responsibilities on you to embrace whatever you find in your core self, and learn to live in accordance with it.  You’re already having an impact on the world just by having been born into it, in ways you may never notice until you start to look.

The problem is, we’re kept so distracted that we don’t generally know how to look.  And when we do start, we’re actively discouraged by the idea that we can think there’s anything special about us unless some Very Important People tell us so.  There’s this revulsion to the idea somehow, so much so that people can get offended by those who seek their own authentic self, and start accusing those others of thinking they’re superior, or betraying their past, or whatnot.

I guess maybe it’s fear, the fear that the status quo may be pushed aside, that maybe there’s something they should be reaching for but haven’t found the right way to go about it.  I really don’t know.  But I do know that you must never be ashamed of what makes you feel peaceful, joyful, and lighter just for being a part of.  This is where your power lies, and while you don’t need to cause havoc, you do need to explore these inspirations without worrying about whether they don’t fit in with the way you’re “supposed to” think and act and feel.

Actually, if I may, I’ll tell you how you’re “supposed to” think and feel.  You are supposed to think through your goals and values, and make sure they build up a sense of harmony inside your own head.  You are supposed to act in accordance with what seems truly right, no matter the pressures to choose otherwise.  You are supposed to feel at home in your own skin, loving your own heart no matter how much you’re afraid you may have gone astray, and feeling how that heart extends this love to those around you.  Everything else is just details.

If you decide to pursue these as your goals, this will put you more in harmony with your innately special nature.  And if anybody out there tries to tell you that there’s nothing special about just trying to be yourself, challenge them to try it with you.  After you’ve both been at it for a month or three, then stuck it through the inevitable backsliding-hurdles once or twice, to go a full year of ups and downs without letting up on your quest, then ask them how easy that was.

And then see if they’ll join you in helping others try it, too.

Personally, this is exactly what I’m working on right now.  If you’d like to join me, leave a comment (and it can be private if you ask because I moderate them).  Don’t sweat it if you find this long after I post this, because unless you happen to find a “Blog Closed” post on the front page, I’m still around, and still working on my path, and would love to keep you company on yours.

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In one of my favorite movies, The Incredibles, there’s the following exchange between a kid who can run superheroically fast, and his super-powered mom:

Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

To me, that’s always been a perfect two-part summation of how, culturally, we can help keep each other down.  For the first part, there’s a strong pressure to “fit in”, and not make waves.  Sure, we talk about how everybody should strive to be the best there is, but once someone starts hitting that inspirational high, we then start trying to tear them down.  Part of it might be jealousy, and part of it might be lashing out in the internal fear that we could never be allowed to reach our own heights.

There also seems to be a cultural impulse to attack people who stand out with the accusation that they’re doing something arrogant and selfish for contradicting the way “everybody” expects a person to think and act.  It’s like there’s a strong resistance to anything disrupting the comfort zone of the “status quo”, sort of like how people say that in America you can have all the Free Speech you want so long as your speech won’t matter.  It’s standing out to make a difference that inspires other people to start embracing their own specialness, that’s where you start to get into trouble.

And that leads into the second part.  Everybody truly is special.  The problem is that for too many people, “special” is some kind of competition where only the winners qualify.  It’s as though “special” has to mean “significantly better than almost everybody else at something rare or spectacular”, and that you have to be the right kind of “special” to get that supreme validation as a uniquely valuable person.  That is so completely backwards.

Special means, essentially, “pertaining or peculiar to a particular person/thing, distinctive, unique”.  And that’s you.  That is absolutely, completely you.  You are a genuinely unique assembly of hopes and fears and skills and doubts and loves and dislikes and pleasures and pains.  Your world may have a lot in common with a lot of people, but only you have exactly your way of being in it.  You are special.  And this matters.

Naturally, this gets challenged.  People scoff, “Well if everybody’s equal, then how can you say that each person is so specially important?  Doesn’t that mean none of us matter?”

This makes me think of some truly beautifully intricate puzzles I’ve seen, where each piece is actually made up of smaller complete pictures.  It’s the combination of the arrangements of the tiny sets of pictures that shows the larger picture on the puzzle when you step back.  Can you picture what I’m talking about?  Now imagine if even one of the pieces was missing.  Is the puzzle still complete, or did that piece matter?

I’ll talk more tomorrow about just how much it matters.

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Today, Ed Kilgore posted a blog called No More “Enemy Turf”, about the importance of not writing off any potential allies in your fight for what you believe in:

Yes, certain demographic categories may be “lost” to conservatives if you insist on a winner-takes-all definition, and no, aggressively pursuing support among such voters isn’t worth it if it involves abandoning key principles or essentially adopting the opposition’s point of view. But reducing the margin of defeat on “hostile ground” is often achievable simply by paying attention and not wilfully repelling voters, and in the end a vote is a vote whether it comes from a segment of the electorate that progressives are “winning” or “losing.” […]

A vote’s a vote; reducing unnecessary losses on “enemy turf” has enormous political value; and progressives need not concede, explicitly or (by silence or evasion) implicitly, religious or military voters. It’s good to see these simple lessons are being taken to heart.

I think that’s a lesson that’s vitally important in all aspects of life, not just the portion of it labeled “politics”.  Where you think there are only enemies, you are missing vitally important allies.  They may not (and probably will not) always agree with you on things you’d really like to convince them of, and they may even try to convince you of some things you really aren’t on board with.  But so long as that doesn’t get in the way of coming together to work toward much-needed help for those who need it, the work itself will provide you with the common ground you need to move forward.

And that’s the sticky point: where we feel others’ actions or beliefs are antithetical to what we hold to be self-evident, it can be awfully hard for us to give up the habit of “I’m Right, They’re Wrong, and that makes this Their Fault”.  It becomes a default mental and even neurochemical response to throw up the barriers between “Us” and “Them”, creating an addictive feedback loop that works both ways.  So instead of taking responsibility for bridging those barriers and doing what we can to create new solutions, we either get bogged down in tracing blame or just abandon “them” entirely.  Gay Hendricks’ The Chemistry of Blame is a great article to read in full regarding how this works in terms of personal relationships and “becoming a conscious creator”-style approaches, but here’s the quotes I feel are most relevant here:

There is a great fundamental issue that overrides many of the things we can do to heal ourselves and the world: the human tendency to step into feeling like a victim and blaming others, instead of taking personal responsibility.

Usually in couples therapy, the first issue to be addressed is: Are you willing to make a commitment to solving the problem? One of the most typical responses is, “Well, I’d be committed if she were.”

“Are you willing to stay completely away from blaming anyone, and instead make a sincere commitment to resolving all the issues we confront?”

There’s only one solution, and that’s to take 100% impeccable responsibility – and create a space for the other person to take 100% impeccable responsibility as well. Responsibility has a contagious effect.

As a therapist, I point out repeatedly, “Okay, having said that your husband is a worthless piece of shit, tune inside. Do you feel happier?” The person begins to recognize that although they feel that “glee-gotcha” feeling that comes from assigning blame, they don’t feel happier.

“Do you choose being right or being happy?”

It’s the same with mastering personal responsibility. Once a person shifts out of glee and experiences the real joy of claiming responsibility, everything is changed.

Like it or not, “those people” are in this boat with us, and we’ll sink if they do.  It doesn’t matter if we think we’re the only ones trying to bail ourselves out while “they” are poking holes in the hull.  It doesn’t matter if “they” feel the same way about us.  Because in reality, there is no “Us” that excludes “Them”; there’s merely “We”, all in the same boat together.  And while we’re busy getting angry or despondent or vindictive or even just exasperated, the boat is slowly sinking.  It doesn’t matter who’s right, it just matters who’s getting their hands on deck to pull our ship out of the storm.

And the thing is, at the core, we generally want to steer our ship down the same basic course.  The problem isn’t that our values are different, it’s more that we’ve gotten so sidetracked by our different perspectives on why they’re important.  Once we can set aside those differences we can free our energy to finding ways to work together toward our shared values, even if it means taking our hat in one humble hand to hold out the other.  As I wrote in Fighting Fire with Water: The Christian Role in the War on Women:

[T]he answer to the War on Women isn’t to fight back against our perceived “enemy” with the same condescension, derision and dogma we feel assaulted by.  We can’t win by returning anger with anger, and fighting fire with fire.  Instead, we must fight fire with water, returning their anger with patience and love.  We must struggle to develop new ways to show them how we’re ultimately on the same team.  We want the same things: a peaceful world where families can grow up happy and healthy and complete, cared for by each other and their community.  We need to show them how their actions are preventing these values from bearing good fruit.  We need to find better ways of working together to make our shared goals real.

And we won’t build these bridges toward our shared goals by trying to convince them their values are wrong, nor by refusing to understand how they can be as sure of their rightness as we are of ours.  This is especially difficult because in today’s world, the strongest dividers of “Us” and “Them” are on religious grounds, with the American Political Theater cycling through nonstop reruns of The Righteous Religious Right versus the The Superior Secular Left.  Each side is constantly being poked and prodded with how dangerously unhinged the other side is, and how the only way to stop them from destroying our world is through political (or literal) scorched earth tactics.

But this story has worn thin, and more and more, people are waking up to the holes in it.  I wrote When Atlas Shirked to explore how this “Us Versus Them” plot is breaking down, and share the narrative of what happens when the characters are ready to fix it.  A very young, very patriotic Christian American learns from those of other faiths who are working to strengthen families and communities, bridging the gulf where others may have widened it.  Those of other/no religions find her Christian group to be staunch allies who tirelessly give of themselves for the hungry, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  After learning of all the many (very familiar) corruptions and injustices plaguing her Orwellian American dystopia, she and countless others set aside their differences to start the heavy lifting of building a better world.

It’s a fairy tale, sure, but it’s one that I sincerely hope could come true.  I truly believe that we each have the means to make our corner of the world a better place, simply by committing to finding ways to take responsibility for our place in it.  And we don’t have to storm a capitol or go all that far from home to do make this difference.  There are opportunities all around us to help those in our very own back yards.  The more we look for these opportunities, the more they’ll show us ways we can pitch in.  It doesn’t matter if we can give only a little at first; this is one of those times where every little bit quite literally does help.

Don’t be surprised if the opportunities might be with those that others might call “your enemy”, because there are no enemies when it comes to doing what’s right.  There might be good times and ways to gently share your perspective without having to call theirs wrong, but that’s not what’s important about doing good.  The most important thing right now is to make sure that good gets done.

People are hungry.  Children are being kicked out into the streets.  The sick and the hopeless are being abandoned.  They need our help, not our ideologies.  They can’t seek shelter under our philosophies, and they can’t eat our prayers.

So there we have it: it’s our job to do what we can, with whoever will join our efforts.  The task now isn’t to bar the doors against those “on the other side”, but to open our own doors, and knock wherever we think we see a light on.  Some will get slammed in our faces, and some will open for a while, only to slam shut again.  That’s okay, it’s not up to you to make anyone else do what they need to do.  Just keep taking full responsibility to do your part.

When you’re working to fulfill your part in all this, you’ll know it’s less important to convince people of what you think is right.  You know that what’s most important is to get out there and do what’s right.  The rest will follow.

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