How do I feel?
I admire people who when asked how they are feeling can immediately tell you. They might say I feeling lonesome or sad, I feel excited and ready or I feel depressed and dejected. For me when asked how I’m feeling I’m often not quite sure but I might be able to tell you a day or two later. In relation to feelings I think I’m something of a slow burner!
However if I think about how I am behaving I would find it much easier to answer and at the same time get some insight as to the feelings behind how I’m behaving.
If I find myself being impatient or irritable with someone I know that beneath it there must be anger lurking somewhere. A friend of mine when annoyed freely admits to it by saying that she’s feeling ‘crunchy’ which is a rather nice term.
If I find myself comparing myself with someone else it’s an indication that I am feeling envious.
If I see someone as a threat and can’t appreciate his or her gifts it’s probably an indication of jealousy.
If I have a sense of being hard done by it probably indicates a blaming mentality with a tendency to play the victim.
If I were a parent and inclined to be overprotective of my children it would indicates a degree of personal vulnerability that I need to look at. Where have I been hurt?
If there is someone who is getting to me and pressing my buttons that is saying so much more about me than it is about the other person. So what is it in me that is reacting so badly to that person and revealing my lack of love?
If I find myself being judgmental it reveals my lack of tolerance for the sacredness of difference. Why should I expect anyone to fit into the little box of my expectations?
All of these are indications of where I need healing and when we look at the public ministry of Christ as evident in the Gospel of today we find that he was nearly always engaged in healing of one kind or another. Sometimes it was of the miraculous kind but more often it was about helping people come to terms with their lives and how their past was affecting their present. So he helped them to tell their story; he reassured them of God’s mercy and taught the importance of forgiveness, both towards themselves and others. He encouraged people to let go of judgments, to be less critical and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Even if we come here not aware of any physical or emotional discomfort there is an area in most of our lives that badly needs to be healed, that usually we are not very aware of, its called judgment or perhaps I should say having a judgmental attitude.
We can be so good at jumping to the wrong conclusions, thinking that we know the whole story and labeling someone because of his or her behavior. Of course when we put a label on someone we already have written him or her off in our minds and completely block off any meaningful connection with them. That’s what judging is. Its really sticking on a label and when we label we also limit that person from being any different, at least in our own minds.
I have here a symbol of judgment. It’s a boomerang that when it’s thrown it always comes back. Judgments are like that, what we give out we get back. Jesus said it himself, ‘As you give out so shall you get back and as you judge so you are judged.’ There is a healthy capacity for judgment in us that is very necessary where we judge right from wrong and are able to discern good behavior from bad behavior. This is where we are entitled to judge someone’s behavior as unacceptable but we are never permitted to judge that person. The reason being, we never know the persons whole story, why he or she is behaving in that manner and perhaps if we were in their shoes we might not be doing anything different.
Some months ago a man was in court. He was charged with soliciting a thirteen-year old boy that he met in a hotel lobby to come to his room. Hearing a situation like that what conclusion would you jump to and you would probably be correct. However it was interesting to meet that man’s uncle and hear another perspective on the story that shows it in a completely different light. First his parents had lost a boy through cot death and when born he had the burden of being a replacement child who carried so much of the grief his parents never expressed. He never felt he had his own identity. Later as a thirteen-year old he was playing around the house with another brother who began to chase him. Running into the scullery he was cornered and taking up his fathers gun that was lying against the wall he pretended to ward off his brother who was coming towards him. He pulled the trigger not knowing that it was loaded, it exploded, and the next moment his brother was lying in a pool of blood.
They lived in the country and the nearest house was across four fields so he raced across in total shock and horror in order to get help believing that he had just killed his brother. An ambulance was called and the boy was taken to hospital. Luckily, although seriously, injured he survived. Strange as it might seem from that day on the incident was never mentioned again, most likely because there was collective guilt involved. The father felt guilty for leaving a loaded gun around and the mother felt guilty for allowing it to be left in her scullery within reach of her children. It was an accident waiting to happen and when it did neither were prepared to take responsibility for their part. Instead of admitting to the child their negligence they conveniently left the entire burden of blame on his shoulders.
It was far too much for him to deal with and was bound to come out in an underhand way. However, it would not be fair to pin all the blame on him.
The part of him that was traumatized was like this Russian Doll that has several other figures inside. Two big pieces had become split off and taken on a life of their own. The child and the teenager part of him had not gone away. Looked at in that light his behavior while totally inappropriate begins to make sense. It was as if he was operating out of a misguided sense of needing to find his own healing and he saw in that other child a mirror image of himself that he needed to bring home.
Here it needs to be said that because something is understandable doesn’t make it excusable. That man had to take responsibility for his actions and it was entirely right that he should be brought to court. However, unless we seek understanding as to why certain types of behavior happen we simply write people off through our judgments and that’s where we are wrong and come under judgment ourselves. It’s hurt people who end up hurting others. Even those who do things that are utterly unacceptable are on a misguided search for wholeness that leaves behind a train of destruction and brings down the wrath of society upon them.