Forgive, Judge, and See - Stepping Away From the Fires of Hell

Picking up from the previous post "COMMENT, COMPLAIN, CRITIQUE, CONTEMPT - THE SUBTLE STEPS TO THE FIRES OF HELL," I offer up a way to think about moving away from contempt. 

recent email newsletter from Fr. Richard Rohr said Pope John XXIII had a motto which was translated as, “See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.” Rohr refined this motto to read: "See everything; judge little; forgive much." It is this three fold pattern that might give us the tools to step away from contempt. First the visual then a bit of explination:

Contempt is among the most difficult things to step away from. Moving away from contempt requires dramatic action. We may not desire dramatic moving away when we are close to contempt toward another. Specifically, we are to forgive much. Forgive wholesale and trust that you will have time to sort out the specifics later. Like running from a fire, the first thing to do is get to safe ground before you assess what needs to be done next. Contempt is a fire that can consume all things and so running from it by way of forgiving wholesale is the first step. Assessments can be made on the way forward. 

If you find that you are close to criticism toward another, then it is important to judge less. Remember we all see only through a mirror dimly and what we see in another person is only a small slice of the whole pie. There are situations going on in their lives that you are unaware of that are contributing to actions you don't understand. Notice that it is not "do not judge" but rather "judge little." While the ideal may be to not judge at all, humans are not able to do this. It is more realistic that we aim to judge little.

Finally, if you find that you are close to complaining, then open your eyes and see more. Not only are we not seeing the other clearly, but we also tend to see ourselves in pure and sinless light. We are the "gold standard" by which we think all things should be judged. We often overlook our own failings/shortcomings. See everything means examine your own motives and actions. 

The goal is to bring us back to comments. Comments are without judgement and are seeking clarification. Despite the "comment" section of most online platforms are full of critique and contempt, comments are the clay that we can use to shape healthy relationships.

A psychic, convict, billionaire fisherman that does not exist

Take three minutes to watch this commercial made by Canon.

He stood on his soapbox and told us a parable
of a man with eye-glasses so small they’re unwearable.
And the moral of the story is that it all looks terrible,
depending on what you look through, what you look through.
— The Grandson of Jesus - by Cloud Cult

Within this video you saw one man walk into the studio six different times to meet a different photographer each time. Each photographer was given a backstory of the man. One photographer was told the man was a former convict another was told he was a billionaire and another told he was a psychic. After each photographer heard a backstory of the man, they then took their photos. After developing the film each of the six pictures were hung on a string side by side. The photographers all came into the room and examined the different photographs. It was at this time that the photographers were told that the man was not any of the things they each heard in the backstory. 

That is when the video comes to it's point: a photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than what is in front of it. 

So taking this metaphor out a bit, it is important to be mindful that how you see is influenced by what you think. The world is broken in areas, however this does not mean the world is going to hell in a hand basket. We are more inclined to see what we want to see and we are more blind that we want to believe we are. 

What story are you telling about yourself? What stories are you telling about those you work with? Live with? Dislike? Admire? God?

Another difference in self-help and spiritual formation

The self help industry is a huge monster of a thing that is a weird mix of accurate and pseudo versions of different disciplines. One of those disciplines that is in the mixture of self help is the discipline of spirituality. 

I would like to point out Christian spiritual formation is different from many expressions of self help. This is not to say that the self help world is wrong or inaccurate in the many claims made. Rather, it is more of a philosophical difference that I would like to bring to the surface. For instance, the difference Christianity and self help has with cracks and imperfections. Still others have written on how each Christianity and self help understand happiness differently.

Another difference that in Christianity and self help is how each of these philosophies understand vision.

The self help world understands vision like much of the academic world I encountered, which says something like this: Everyone sees the world through a set of lenses. You were born with a set of lenses that you see the world through and as we grew our lenses changed some but we still had these lenses on our eyes that colored the world as we experienced it. Thus the goal of education and self help is to teach us to examine these lenses so that we might see how it is our vision is different from others who see the exact same world.

Now this is not an inaccurate metaphor for how we see the world. However, what makes Christian spirituality different is that we do not think that we have lenses, but in fact that we are blind and cannot see. This is why the spiritual life is one that embraces humility, because we cannot see. Paul said that we see through dark glass, but he only said this after he was literally blinded. It is only when we come to the reality that we cannot see that we then can take the steps to admit that all the lenses we wear are dark at best. 

Yes we have lenses we see the world through and it is important to examine those lenses. However, the first step in Christian formation is to have our eyes opened, then we can clean the lenses.

The Dress is Not Blue/Black or Gold/White

If the U.S. is not captivated by llamas running loose we are busy arguing about the color of this dress. 

My wife and I are a house divided. I am on team Blue/Black, she is on team Gold/White. Apparently to some people this dress looks totally different to others. Tempers were flaming all over the internet. People making arguments about what color this dress is and in the end, we all are wrong. This dress is not blue and black or gold and white. 

This dress is blue and black and gold and white. 

In fact this whole social explosion is a wonderful illustration of how our minds in the U.S. "work". We divide things into categories and once they are in those categories it is very difficult to break out of those categories. For instance try telling some people that God is She or that God really does love our enemies or that we all participate in evil. Or that this dress is blue and black. 

The spiritual life is a lot of things but at its core it is about unlearning how to break things into categories and see the unifying whole in the world. Every book written by Father Richard Rohr hits this point home - The spiritual life is about leaving dual thinking behind and embracing "non-dual" thinking. 

If we can see that some people experience this picture as a blue/black dress and others see this picture as a white/gold dress and can validate both experiences as true, if we can see the the other as our neighbor, see we have a part in all forms of evil, see we are all threads in a single garment of destiny then we are taking steps toward non-dual thinking. 

However, if we spend energy trying to prove what color the dress really is in order to make ourselves feel like we are "more right" than another, if we only see ourselves as sinner or saint, if we only see our neighbor as friend or foe, if we only see that God loves us and not our enemy, if we persist to live as dualistic thinkers we might as well put the dress over our eyes. 

At least then everyone else will see that we are blinded.