Sometimes…not often, but sometimes…the anger over The Atrocity is so great that we have nowhere to go with it.
So we turn it in the only direction we feel safe turning it:
on each other.
And then the defensive parapets quickly erect themselves, to guard our hearts from more hurt.
It is hard to storm a parapet.
(After typing that word twice, I decided to look up its origin. Parapet derives from the Latin meaning “to defend the breast.” Hmmm…interesting that I just wrote “guard our hearts.”)
Protective parapets must be dismantled in order for there to be true peace in the kingdom.
I remember a conversation I had long ago with a very wise, but radical, friend. I suppose I was venting about some now long-forgotten (perceived) injustice.
As I ranted on about the offense, defensively self-vindicating along the way, she looked at me and said, “Yes, but Kim, He did not defend himself.” (Mark 15:5)
That stopped me in my tracks.
She went on, “I’ve found that when I keep trying to defend myself in a given situation, it only builds a bigger wall. So I’ve learned just to accept blame sometimes. Because even if I didn’t do what I’m being accused of, I know that I’m capable of it. Humility tears down defensive walls.”
I told you she was radical.
I’m not there yet.
Not by a long shot.
(But I’d like to be one day.)
It’s important to understand that this principle is not the same as being a doormat. (There are times when we have no choice but to fight for our rights.)
It is not a surrender; it is a victory. Well, actually, it is a surrender. But it is a victorious surrender. It is a volitional laying down of one’s rights. It comes from an understanding that there will be justice in the end.
The beautiful irony is that by then we’ll be over our need for it.
In the meantime…
We all struggle.
(Even perfect people aren’t perfect.)
We battle with ourselves and with each other. But it is imperative to keep in mind that “we” are not the enemy: The Enemy is the enemy.
And all of us are wrong very often, because each of us perceives the world through Me-colored glasses.
I love the exchange between the visitor from (self-chosen) Hell and the ‘Blessed Spirit’ in Heaven in Lewis’s The Great Divorce:
“Oh, of course, I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.”
“But of course!” said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. “That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living…”
Real life begins with a death.
We have so many opportunities to die daily. Laying down our wants, ways, desires, dreams, opinions…the need to be “right,” the lust for control… for the benefit of others seems like dying. It is a type of death.
I believe that’s one of the reasons we’re here, though…to learn how to die. At the end of “Missing Katherine,” I quoted from the lyrics of a strange little Indie-ish song by Jon Foreman of Switchfoot. This refrain is the response to the lines I quoted there:
“She said, “Friend,
All along I thought
I was learning how to take
How to bend not how to break
How to live not how to cry
I've been learning how to die
I've been learning how to die…”
I confess that there are times when I’m just not up to the challenge. When Self rears its ugly old head and refuses to die back down.
Two strong-willed Selves faced in opposition create an impasse.
And then round and round and round we go.
The only way to interrupt the cycle is to put yourself in the other person’s place. Really. Try to get inside their head. Wear their skin for a minute. Feel what they’re feeling. Try to see the world through their eyes. (Maybe close your own in order to do it.) Use Method Acting techniques if you have to.
It’s not easy to do at first, because we humans are so blinded by self-interest and our own tightly-clutched opinions.
But then I remember that someone did put himself in my place…
and bore the consequences of being me.
That makes it easier.
Much, much easier.
(Oh, if only I could take my own advice more often…)