Monday, February 08, 2010
Living Life Fully
Perhaps the clearest and deepest meaning of brotherhood is
the ability to imagine yourself in the other person's position,
and then treat that person as if you were him or her. This
form of brotherhood takes a lot of imagination, a great
deal of sympathy, and a tremendous amount of understanding.-Obert C. Tanner
Have you ever walked a mile in someone else's shoes? Have you tried to see life from someone else's perspective, tried to feel what that person feels and think what that person thinks? If we could do so, I think that we'd find that rudeness, selfishness, arrogance, and other traits that tend to affect others so negatively result more from fears than from anything else, and that these people's negative behavior is a self-defense mechanism that they've adopted because nobody's taught them yet about self-acceptance and self-love.
If children shows signs of being afraid, such as crying and hiding, we do our best to comfort them. We hug them, and we try to calm them down. We give them our sympathy and our love.
When an adult shows signs of fear, though, in the form of rudeness or obnoxiousness, we respond by trying to put that person in his or her place. We have little sympathy, and we often feel hurt or diminished by that person's actions or words.
Have you ever seen someone act in a way that was hurtful, and then found out later that something drastic, such as the death of a loved one, had just happened to that person? Once we have an explanation for the behavior, it's not just acceptable, but understandable.
Obert is asking us to look for that explanation for everyone. Imagine being that person, having his job, working with her co-workers, dealing with children who are getting in trouble, trying to recover from a childhood with an abusive parent, still hurt by that painful divorce, still feeling diminished from being laid off from work. This is how we can truly prove our desire to help others--by understanding even those who don't even seem to need our understanding.
Questions to ponder:
1. Can you think of someone with whom you're at odds who may
need your understanding? What would that understanding do for you?
2. Can you imagine yourself living through someone else's situation for a day? For a week? What would that time be like for you?
3. Has anyone ever tried to understand what it's like to be in your shoes?
Why is it so rare for people to do this?
For further thought:
We will recognize that each person needs to nourish and be nourished
by many persons. . . . It is right, even necessary, to make yourselves available to one another in new loving, caring, and fulfilling ways --
without the spectres of old guilts.-Quaker newsletter