From a distance, how easy it is to de-personalize or label people and lump them into a category of different; “not one of us”. It can be a slippery downward spiral if we buy into to disparaging talk and name calling that only breeds contempt for one particular group or another.
Heated words spread like wildfire. Soon dislike metamorphoses into hate. Group think is a dangerous phenomenon that can lead to unimaginable atrocities and genocide. We have watched history repeat itself and the mayhem continues. Yes, from a distance, how easy it is to become biased and to hate. Ah, what a strong emotion hate is.
Everything begins with a thought. Before we experience an emotion we think a thought, add personal meaning and begin to tell ourselves a story. Past experience influences our perceptions and can quickly lead us up the ladder of inference. Too often we make faulty assumptions and then our emotions swell. Suddenly, we are upset with someone based on our obscured ability to see clearly.
When we do not recognize our reflection in one another eyes it is like an autoimmune disease where the body does not recognize its own cells and mistakenly thinks it is being invaded by a foreign enemy. Ironically, our body’s defense system turns on itself, doing everything in its power to rid itself of the unknown threat.
Yes, from a distance how easy it is to objectify people, to see another as stranger; as a threat to be reckoned with or eliminated. There is a way out of this vicious cycle. It begins with a reversal of thought. We need to take great care in what information we absorb into our minds. We must make a conscious effort to be aware of our perceptions and willing to challenge our assumptions of how we see in this world.
The best way I know to begin this reversal of thought, from fear to Love, is to journey into our own discomfort zones. To get upfront and personal, so to speak and meet the very people we see as different.
When we meet face to face and can begin to relate on a more personal level, we can see each other as real people, not stereotypes. Great healing can come from a place of connecting and experiencing our common ground. Ultimately, we may see that our dreams, hopes and aspirations are not so different after all.
My friend Fr. Jim Farris shared these two verses with me that I believe illustrate this understanding of our shared humanity.
Chapter 29 from the Tao Te Ching:
Do you want to improve the world?
I don't think it can be done. The world is sacred.
It can't be improved.
If you tamper with it, you'll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you'll lose it. There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger. The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
And here is a passage from Ecclesiastes 3:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
~liz Sorensen Wessel