Last Sunday at Sunday School, the pastor played for us an excerpt of a sermon by Richard Rohr. Rohr was essentially saying that, instead of trying to prove that we’re right in arguments, we should listen to the other side and learn from it. Otherwise, nothing new happens to us: how can we learn anything new if we are not willing to learn from another perspective? The reason that the pastor played this for us is that we are going through the United Methodist Church’s Social Principles, which covers a lot of hot-button issues.
Somehow, we got on the topic of the importance of not thinking that
we are the center of the universe. The pastor was saying that a key
stage of transition for children is when they enter kindergarten.
Before that time, many of them are the center of attention in their
homes. In kindergarten, however, they are not, and they have to share
attention with other children. The pastor was saying that a similar
thing occurs for a number of adults when they first go to church. Human
nature wants to be the center of attention, but, at church, as in
kindergarten, people have to come to terms with the reality that they
are not the only people—-that there are other people, too.
The pastor made another point, as well. We went through the section
of the Social Principles about the nurturing community. The pastor was
saying that we have to feel good about ourselves before we can feel good
about others. We have to believe that we are worthy of good things, if
we are to believe that others are worthy of good things.
There’s a lot there! I’ll post some brief reactions. I can probably
write an exhausting treatise about each one, but I don’t want to do
1. Listening to others. Sure, I do that, in my own way. Others may
not be satisfied with how I do it, or the extent to which I do it. But
I do read different perspectives. On the other hand, I am not
particularly eager to change my mind. Plus, certain perspectives simply
disgust me. And I would prefer to read other perspectives
than to talk about issues with people in acrimonious political
discussions. Yet, I am pretty choosy in what I read, for some
voices—-even voices on the other side from where I am—-strike me as more
reasonable, thoughtful, and intelligent (maybe even friendlier) than
2. Part of life is learning that you are not the center of the
universe. I know that I struggle with this; I am glad that it is human
nature, which means that I am not alone in this struggle. I think that I
am perfectly willing to share attention with others. At the same time,
feeling totally alone or ignored is not good, either. In my opinion,
many people do not necessarily want to hog the whole show, but they do
want to feel that they are part of the show. I am just saying this, and
I am not commenting on the church that I am attending. I will say,
though, that I feel more integrated into the church now that I have
started to attend Sunday school. At least I know more people, and they
are aware of me. Last Sunday before church started, I had a
conversation with someone, and that was good.
3. Do I believe that I need to feel good about myself before I can
feel good about others? Should I convince myself that I deserve good
things, before I can believe that others deserve good things? I am not
sure if this is entirely a problem with me. Notice the word
“entirely.” I would say that, in my mind, I do deserve good things. My
problem is that there are others who do not necessarily think that. Do
I feel good about myself, then? Well, no, for I do wish that I were
“more” this or that—-smarter, better at socializing, better at knowing
that to say, more engaging as a writer, etc. If I think that I deserve
good things, does that make me desire good things for others? It can,
but it doesn’t necessarily. If I am not faring well, then I have a hard
time rooting for others to fare well, especially if they are people
whom I do not like. At the same time, experiencing a lack of success
myself can make me more empathetic towards others, and perhaps make me
happy when something good happens in another person’s life, especially
if that person has been struggling.
Speaking in Las Vegas!
2 hours ago