Would you dare to take a walk in another person’s shoes for one day? Would you be willing to become fully immersed in their struggles, fears and challenges? Before answering, could we really consider a day without our current level of knowledge, life experience, community, emotional maturity, job, finances, home, wisdom and self-awareness? Would we know where to begin or even what to begin if all of those things we take for granted where wiped clean; or worse still, replaced by a lifetime of abuse, neglect, poverty and helplessness. Looking from the outside in, so many people think they know they could do better, know they could turn life around if they were in that position and know they could get out of a rut if they found themselves in one, but without understanding the complexities of the individual this can be a very dispassionate viewpoint. Who are we to look upon another and judge their “failings” for having put themselves in a disadvantaged position. Are we so naïve? In reality we know nothing about another other than what we choose to see with our blinkers on from our own place of security. As John and Lyn St Claire Thomas wrote in Eyes of the Beholder, “Truth does not change although your perception of it may vary or alter drastically.” So what truths are we actually seeing if we are looking from a position of judgement, because that is ultimately what is going on.
Pity on the other hand serves no-one. It is compassion that is the key. Being motivated to take real action to help another without any motive other than to ease their suffering is an act of pure love. It is something that costs nothing and yet love can be so easily overlooked and replaced by judgement or disinterest. The phrase “made their own bed, so they can lay in it” was something that I heard often when growing up. To me it was a phrase that embodied a washing of the hands. It meant that no help would be offered to someone, nor any sympathy held or given for someone who had made a bad choice and found themselves suffering. Cruel words indeed that my conscious, in opposition to that way of thinking, throws up one of the very few bible verses I can recall, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” John 8.7
We are responsible for ourselves and for others because we are not separate from each other as we would like to think. That doesn't mean we should try and save everyone from themselves. To begin with it would be narcissistic to presume we knew every problem someone needed solved. We would be conceited to think we knew every correct answer to those problems. This doesn’t mean that we should apply the “made their own bed, so they can lay in it” metaphor either. But it does mean that love is needed. Love transforms every situation and should always be the first thing we think of in any situation. Injecting love into a thought, word or action before judgement, envy, jealousy or disinterest takes hold, can only positively affect all concerned including those who are in turn affected by the ripple that love creates.
In the book The Prophet, philosopher and writer Kahlil Girban writes of love, “When love beckons to you, follow him. Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you, yield to him. Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you, believe in him. Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.”
Once you have heard love call to you, and you have followed that calling, life seems to present more opportunities to you in which your loving practices can be shared. Just as we have been conditioned to keep our love separate from one person to another, just as we have been conditioned to judge on sight and blame others for their own suffering, we can become conditioned to the reality that true love knows no boundaries. True love is the north wind, laying waste to the garden of preconceived ideas, beliefs and conditioning.
“Man cannot discover new oceans until he has the courage to lose sight of the shore” (unknown). So dive. Dive into the deep, down and down where so many hearts and souls wait for the light of love. Your love. Let it shine to guide them home to wholeness, for in return your own heart will expand and grow in ways you could never dream of.