1. General Christian

Failure to see our own wrongs.

          I have said this before in a variety of ways, but I feel it must be said again, and this time perhaps more directly. 
           Whatever it is that bothers you most in other people is almost always a serious flaw within yourself.
          As our scriptures say it,  (Matthew 7:1-5): “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you.  Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye?  You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.” 
          Scott Peck, in his book, People of the Lie, describes the truth of my statement above as the root of evil behavior.  He says that people project out onto others the parts of themselves that they cannot face, cannot see, cannot accept and then they actively work to destroy it in the other: that this is what leads to evil.
          It’s so easy to see the truth of this in others, and to know that as a result, our choice to self-reflect is absolutely critical for the well-being of the world.  Yet, most people still do not do this.  And even those who understand the depth of this at a core level will find it so much easier to see in other people than in ourselves.  But perhaps we need to start there, with our observation of others, to enable us to apply it in our own lives.
        I think about the first time I really understood the seriousness or the truth of this.  As a child I knew someone who was constantly putting down another woman whom she felt chose to be a victim and more, chose to use that victimization to manipulate and control the people around her into doing what she wanted them to do.  The person complaining absolutely hated this other woman, and actively worked to discredit her with other people, constantly pointing out her victimization stance and the way she controlled her world with it.  But even as I child I could see with absolute clarity that the woman complaining was actually a master at the very same behavior she was criticizing in this other woman. 
        I see this constantly: the person who says everything comes down to a power play is the one for whom power plays are paramount.  The person who says people don’t listen who, himself, does not listen.  The person who becomes enraged at someone else’s bullying who is themself a bully.  The person who says gossip is an issue who uses that same gossip as their primary weapon.  We see this at a national level, too – the ones condemning LGBTQ folk who are so often LGBTQ folk themselves who cannot face it until they are caught in a same-gender liaison; the person who condemns others as liars who cannot himself say one word of truth; those who brag about their humility when they are narcissists in every sense of the word; the one shouting about not being valued or treated as a full human being who cannot see the ways in which she oppresses everyone who does not look like herself.  I could go on and on.
        On an almost daily basis I hear or see someone being critical of others for doing exactly what they embody as a human being.  And, like Scott Peck, I have come to believe that this behavior is itself causing an amazing amount of the damage in our world.  The call to self-reflect, to face our own flaws, to admit them: these are actions that lead to healing, not only for ourselves but for the world.  And yet, these are the hardest things to do.   
        My own worship committee has debated about the importance of the prayer of confession in our worship services.  They have felt that it does not raise us up, but slams down those who already have low self-esteem.  I understand this thinking.  But the truth is that we don’t get to healing, we don’t move to a place of being able to accept grace, accept a new beginning, start again; without naming those things that have hurt us the most.  And the thing that has hurt us the most, nine out of ten times, I am convinced, is our own refusal to face ourselves: our shadows, the parts of our own beings that we don’t want to see.  If we can seriously take self-inventory (as our 12-step brothers and sisters do), then we can change, we can grow, and we can heal.  By facing ourselves, we begin to heal ourselves, which in turn begins the healing of our society.
        As a country we are being called to look at a flaw that many of us don’t want to see, and that is our racism.  We don’t want to be part of this problem, we don’t want to see it, and so we deny it.  But it is real.  It is part of our culture, it is deep in our history, it is in the very fabric of our being.  You might say it is in our blood.  And we can see that those who deny it are the very ones who are acting it out most in this moment with violence, with aggression, with terror on our brothers and sisters of color.  I understand that it is hard to look at, but it is necessary to look, to name it, to be willing to take a deep and hard look at the messages that are part of our being, at the ways in which we live those out and act those out, at the ways in which we are damaging ourselves by allowing harm to happen to our brothers and sisters of color.  We are called in this moment to self-reflection of a very painful, but deep, important and true kind.
        Start with education: There are wonderful books out there to read on the subject.  Some of the ones I’ve read include Biased by Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo, to name a few.  Join a book group that is reading these books so you have a place to discuss, to learn together, to face racism and our part in it, together.
        Move to action.  There are many groups that are taking action on this and if you would like to be hooked up with one, let me know.
        Most importantly, be willing to look at yourself.  I know it’s hard.  I know this.  I comforted a very unhappy young woman yesterday who was lamenting her whiteness and feeling like she shouldn’t exist in this world because of it.  But there is so much good we can do, as those with privilege, to support, empower, and challenge the system of oppression that denies power to our brothers and sisters.  I understand that self-reflection can lead at moments to despair, but without that intense inner look, there is no hope for movement out of destruction and into being helpers.  We are all on this journey.  All of us.  We need to take the steps together. 
        I started this post by pointing out that self-reflection is hard.  It is so easy to see the flaws of others and so hard to look at ourselves.  I include myself in this critique and I’m working with others to look at my own contribution to harm in this world.  I am grateful for the friends and community that allow me to do that work.  I encourage you to find the same.  We have to begin somewhere.  Being with those who love you enough to tell you the truth is the best place to start.  Thanks be to God for our communities of truth-telling. 

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