The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom may seem a bit corny, yet, these are my reasons it was worth reading:
I always need to be reminded that…
- I am not alone; we are all connected in ways we are unaware
- I am much more than my mistakes and, they will work out for good in the big picture
- My life counts more than I think
- I am not an inconsequential loser or a nobody
Mitch Albom said he was inspired to write these books by an uncle who thought his life had been a waste. I wish I could thank that uncle.
I’ve posted this quote from http://www.notsalmon.com before, but thought it might be time for a repeat.
Stop the blame-and-shame-train with “What was I learning?”
Otherwise, it’s not just me that will suffer.
I will beat others up with my…
intolerance of others’ mistakes
destructive judgements and projections
Things that I’d rather not be honest about but when I am, it makes me less judgmental and easier to be around:
I am disgusting sometimes too. It’s not just the people I criticize.
I have lied and manipulated facts when I was scared of getting in trouble.
I have made myself look better than I actually was.
I have feared rejection and looking unworthy to others.
I have sometimes done things to get attention.
Sometimes, I have even wished awful things upon cable and mobile phone companies (whom I perceived to be arrogant).
I have screamed at family members like a crazy woman and would have killed my sister if I could have gotten away with it.
We may not have killed people, but most of us have thought about it.
That makes me more prone to forgive people who actually fall off the edge.
Humans are mean, uncooperative, or difficult for lots of reasons other than being “evil.” (It’s important to remember that when hurt, or when on social media.)
Sometimes they have been scarred by evil.
Sometimes they are blinded by fear.
Sometimes they are just as prone to screwing-up as I am (when hurting).
When I remember to take this into consideration, tolerance and compassion come easier.
People who are not afraid to be tolerant and compassionate are the type of people I want to be around.
This Richard Rohr quote pretty much sums up the tragic plots of countless movies, TV shows, books, and plays (see Shakespeare, Kite Runner, Game of Thrones, This is Us, etc.), but also sadly, wars and worse.
You might recognize this illustration from Madmen. Same song, second verse.
We’ve heard it since we were children
We must forgive
Starting with ourselves
Yet, we try to beat the odds
And hold on to vapor
Groping like madmen
For the protection of liars
Who will go down with us
Unless we collapse into truth
And choose to fall upward
This quote from Moby Dick came to mind when I took out a map of the world with the intention of marking all the places I have worked and traveled. Truly grateful for having gone places I never thought I would, I am also keenly aware that the most transformative places I have been are not on any map.
This awareness, more than any other, helps me to look at other people with reverence and gentleness, even those people I don’t understand, agree with, or particularly like. Who could chart their journey through sadness, loss, love, discovery, disappointment, and change?
For this is holy ground
Could we see with seeing eyes
The place we stand on is paradise”
– Christina Rossetti
My nephew was hurt to know that his grandfather never held him or really noticed him when he was a baby. I tried to explain that it wasn’t about him, it was, rather, about my father’s “inability to see” due to preoccupation with himself.
My nephew acted indignant until I reminded him of our own tendency to be self-absorbed. Time and wear narrows the scope of any person who doesn’t cultivate “the ability to see” beyond their own needs and concerns.
Actively practicing concern for others prevents this “ability to see” from diminishing with age.
I asked a prison psychologist what the biggest challenge of her job was. She said it was being willing to forgive rapists and murderers enough to try to help them.
To make it easier for herself she planted two seedlings in paper cups. One she placed on the window sill and watered regularly. The other she placed on a shelf and hardly ever watered. As she observed the stunted growth and the gnarly roots of the neglected plant, she grew more compassionate toward the “evil” men.
All healthy living things need:
- The sunshine of love
- Means to receive nutrients
Also (critical for thinking and confusable humans):
- Clarity about how to avoid a loss of those two things
When people are confused about this, unfortunate things happen to them.
“I don’t care if it is killing me. I believe what I believe (even if it is a lie).”
So the other day I talked to this guy who insisted he was too awful to ever be forgiven. I asked him if he had ever killed anyone and he said no. I asked him if he had people tied up in his cellar and he said no. I told him about John Newton, former slave-trader who wrote the song, Amazing Grace.
I told him about all sorts of people who had done despicable things, made amends, accepted forgiveness, and gone on to live productive lives. No facts or evidence could entice him toward hope.
He just wanted to talk about his misery.