Monday, December 24, 2012


The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.  -- Isaiah 11:3-6

This is a wonderful vision.  A wonderful dream.  But how will it ever come true?

How will the wolf live with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, the lion with the calf, without devouring it?  How will predatory animals live with prey animals in gentleness and peace?

Only when predators change who they are in their very core.

The wolf, leopard, and lion would have to completely change the way it perceives a lamb, kid, and calf.   No longer would it see an easy target.  No longer would it see something to overpower.  No longer would it even see something that it needs to kill and eat for its own survival.   It would have to depend on something else for its survival. 

This passage is, of course, an allegory for peaceful co-existence among humans.  What is true of the wolf, the leopard, and the lion, is true for us humans -- the greatest predators on earth -- who have turned violence towards others, even our own species, into a science, a technology, a vocation, and a form of entertainment.

So, in order for us to live peacefully with other people, we have to lose all desire to overpower other people.

All other people.  Those we know and those we do not know.  Even those who transgress against us.  Even those who try to overpower us.

How does this happen?   How do we humans change who we are in our very core?

How do we make the above dream a reality?

Well, as Mahatma Gandhi put it... We must be the change we want to see in the world.  It starts with me.  And you.

In the last few weeks, I have been learning how to be more compassionate -- specifically how to be as compassionate towards other people as I am towards my own children.  There is a difference.  When it comes to my own children, I am quite willing to sacrifice my own needs and desires for their sakes, but when it comes to other people, I become more insular.

In my last posting, I wrote that it is my ego that so often gets in the way of my ability to be compassionate towards other people.  I described the ego as that which is within us that rises to our defense, that justifies our thinking and our actions.  Our ego serves to foster our own security and to protect us from all harm.  This is not necessarily a bad thing:  it keeps us alive.   But, if left unchecked, our ego makes us more and more self-centered, more insular.  Someone with an overblown ego looks at other people as beneath him or her, looks at other people as unworthy of consideration unless they can provide some service, and even looks at other people as expendable. 

I wrote that in order to change this self-centeredness, we need to let go of our egos.   We need to release the tight hold we have on ourselves, and on our lives.  We have to be willing to lose our lives in order to find the kind of life God envisions for our future.

But, what does this mean in practice? 

The first step for me, as I learned last week, is recognizing when my ego begins to rise to my defense.

It unfortunately does not take much for this to happen.  Someone could be rude or say something hurtful, or say something that is not true about me.  And I will be off to the races, saying something rude or hurtful right back -- or at least thinking it.  When I think about how much unhappiness my ego creates in my life, and in the lives of those around me, I wonder if our overblown egos in general are not the cause of most of the suffering in the world.  

And it all starts at this very basic level:  the way we communicate with other people.

So, what if I start at this very basic level and learn to change the way I react to the words of other people?  What if I ignored my reaction?  What if I kept the words of other people with the people who made them?  What if I saw their words as revelations of their core -- not mine -- and therefore not needing my ego's self-defense.  Would that make a difference in how I communicate with them?

I think so.  I have seen this a few times already.  Already I am learning to catch my ego rising to my defense at the critical words other people direct at me.   And I have been deliberately choosing to ignore my reaction to them.  Just doing this, just ignoring my reaction, allows me to hear the other person better. 

Words are not isolated entities.  The words of one person are always in response to a perception of something else.  The perception may be accurate or not, but it creates thoughts and more words, which are in turn perceived accurately or not.  Effective communications requires that we accurately hear the other person:  that is, that we hear what they perceive and not necessarily the words they use to communicate their perception.  However, when we allow our ego to quickly respond to words, and how they affect us, we do not even have a chance of understanding what that person perceives.

Accurate perception takes time.  And a silenced ego.

A silenced ego requires complete trust in a benevolent God.

The quotation above, from Isaiah Ch. 11, begins and end with the following words...

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, ...  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear .. and they will not hurt or destroy on all my mountain.

The more I learn about Jesus, the more I learn just how radically different was his wisdom and understanding from that of the world.

Dear God, thank you for your continued guidance.  Please teach me to communicate with more and more wisdom and understanding in all areas of my life.  Love always, Pam

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