I sit in the streets with the homeless
My clothes stained with the wine
From the vineyards the saints tend.
Light has painted all acts
The same color
So I sit around and laugh all day
With my friends.
At night if I feel a divine loneliness
I tear the doors off Love’s mansion
And wrestle God onto the floor.
He becomes so pleased with Hafiz
“Our hearts should do this more.”
~ by Hafiz, “Our Hearts Should Do This More”
A thought that I keep reflecting on and has been coming back to me over and over again lately is the human capacity for such love, compassion, generosity and but also that of such hatred, unkindness, hurt. My mind is boggled by the fact that such contrasting aspects can co-exist within us. Let me explain.
It would be hard to deny that the current larger narrative going on in our society that has been brought to the forefront and been filled with, at the root, is one of the struggle of creating and navigating the boundary/idea of who is our neighbor, who is in our “group” and who is “other.” This is not a new struggle but age-old and I think one that Jesus not only cared deeply about, but was one of the pillars of his message. However, an aspect that I believe is not as explored and is often unspokenly assumed, I would argue mostly subconsciously, is that something that fuels this process, is the belief that what distinguishes us/them is the belief that at the core someone else is inherently different than ourselves, that they are evil and we are good.
There is a psychological principle that has demonstrated that when we view someone doing something we disagree with, we often attribute this to someone’s character and personality, while if we were to do something of a similar vain, we attribute this to our circumstances and don’t see it as part of our intrinsic sense of self. If this is the case, we give ourselves grace when we mess up, but are less likely to do so with others. When we hear of others committing atrocities or read news about groups of people and deem them wrong, we are essentially saying that we are not like them at all, that we would never do this or that, or even have the capacity for such acts. Based on this conception and perception, we decide that there is a division between us and these other individuals and we start to categorize, using these as indicators of who is in and who is out, who we are like and who we are not like.
However, have you had a moment when you have wondered, “Why did I do that? This was not a stellar display of positive humanity.” I think we often forget these moments or minimize them. We often choose to not focus or give clout to these times or feelings and experiences. If we did, we would be reminded and realize that we in fact to some extent do have the capacity for things and actions that make us uncomfortable, that we are not proud of, or that we disagree with. The question is what we choose to do with this knowledge and realization. Will we choose to continue to negate the full spectrum of human capacity, whether positive or negative, or will we humbly acknowledge that we also aren’t always living our best selves towards others and ourselves? If we would do the latter, how would that change the way we interact with and view other people, would we change our views on who is like us or different from us? Are we willing to live in the murkiness of this truth, to struggle and constantly humble ourselves to engage and be aware that the lines are not as hard defined, not as clear-cut, not as definite, not only in regards to others, but also within ourselves? How would this change the way we discuss with other people we disagree with? Politically? Religiously? Socially?
May we give ourselves and others grace to navigate this journey of understanding that what seemingly divides us may actually connect us, and that in doing we are doing the Spirit’s holy work within us as well as creating the beloved community.