Understanding the Other
I had come to the end of a long and unsettling day of doctors appointments and other terrors when someone sent me the link.
It was a page full of recorded interviews with Bowden so the refuge of sleep would have to wait.
I listen to Bowden like some listen to a favorite teachers sermon…with anticipation, expecting to learn something I didn’t know before from someone much wiser than myself.
He was talking about how he interviewed people for his stories , those stories that in the words of another wordsmith “make you feel like the book is about to explode into flames while you’re reading it”.
“The price you pay to understand someone is sharing their feelings.”
The words exploded in my head and I got up and posted the quote to Facebook.
It sounded like something from “Chicken Soup For the Soul”… but unless in your soup the chicken is still alive and screaming as the knife approaches it was much different.
Bowden was talking about sharing the feelings of baby killers, cartel assassins, child molesters, rapists, and others who dwell in great darkness…as well as poor people and migrants, people striving for the light.
To truly understand them well enough to write about them, he had to enter into their feelings with them.
That exacted a heavy price on him, because he discovered that all the evils he chronicled existed in some form within himself…within all of us.
We Reformed types call this the doctrine of total depravity, the doctrine that declares that all of our human faculties are stained with sin and in need of redemption.
That…is what makes the grace of God “amazing”.
Most of us will never need to share the feelings of the kind of people Bowden wrote about.
All of us need to take his words to heart.
We are a divided people… in too many ways it’s “us” against “them”
The only way we can become “we” is by the difficult and painful duty to share the feelings of those we are separated from that we may understand each other.
We “demonize” each other…which is just another way of saying that we make those we differ with less than human.
If they are “less” than we are then we can treat them accordingly.
We betray truth as well as the faith when we do so.
As you look across the canyon separating you from whatever group you have defined as the “enemy”, unless you understand that they are defending deeply felt values and beliefs just as you are then the canyon will remain.
Your only hope is in conquest, but they may conquer you.
We who call upon the name of Christ are called to be carriers of peace and agents of reconciliation.
The first step toward both is understanding the other and that begins with sharing in their feelings.
It will take a toll, but that is the way of the Cross.
Make your own application…