“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
When I started college, I often heard these words. This saying, attributed to Jesus and found in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke, was a favorite quote of one of my college friends, Mike. A bit of an evangelist, Mike would quote this verse when one of his friends used some sort of negative humor. Given that I learned to perfect the art of sarcasm at an early age, Mike frequently recited this Biblical verse to me. Thirty-five years later, Mike’s voice rings clearly and rings true in my mind.
The things that fill our minds and hearts are demonstrated in our actions and speech. Spiritual practices from the world’s great traditions emphasize the need to train one’s mind to keep focused on things that are positive and that enrich our lives. This same concept is found in the practice of cognitive psychology which contends that the way we think is manifested in our behavior and speech.
Yes, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Several mouths spoke. Many of us heard the words both as they were uttered and again in the news. When Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul if a thirty year old without insurance was the victim of a serious accident, “who should pay?” several members of the audience chimed in: Let him die!
I want to be clear: Ron Paul did not agree with this sentiment. Rather, as a true libertarian, he spoke of freedom and personal choice. He also explained that members of society have a choice to support the man and pay for his medical care through religious groups and charities.
While I find Dr. Paul’s solution to the health care crisis in the United States to be miserably inadequate, it is not my intention to debate the merits or limitations of libertarianism in the column. Instead, I want to ask a much broader question: when we consider the culture of the United States today, what is it that’s most in our hearts and minds that in turn directs our words and actions?
I know that I am not alone at being offended by the notion that the sick should be left to die because of the lack of financial resources. Yet that’s exactly what happens today. The rationing of government supported health care leads to the death of the uninsured. This first became national news when the state of Arizona stopped payments for dialysis. This same decision has been made in many other parts of the country, including in Atlanta where I live.
I do value the notion of autonomy and individual’s taking responsibility for their own actions. But when this value becomes an absolute, the result is a fundamental lack of compassion based on selfishness and self-absorption. It means that I’m responsible for myself and you’re on your own. If you need my help, too bad! Just be responsible for yourself.
From my vantage point, it appears that the abundance of the American heart today is selfishness and self-absorption. It’s fashionable to blame the poor, the unemployed, and those at the bottom of society for the serious problems we face. Instead, they are the defenseless ones who, even when making the best decisions they can with limited options available to them, are no match for the tide of negativity spawned and funded by powerful right-wing interests.
What does this have to do with spirituality? Why this socio-political tirade in a blog about spirituality? It is because “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks!” Those with an authentic, grounded spiritual dimension in their lives grow in compassion, charity, and love. That’s not just my opinion. Instead, the correlation between spiritual practice and compassion is at the heart of all the great world religions including Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
People with spiritual depth need to make their voices heard in today’s social discourse. The voices of selfishness and self-centered preoccupation insist that it’s every person for him or herself. These are the voices most often heard in American society today. But this perspective is not reflective of all people in the United States. In fact, I suggest, that most American citizens do not ascribe to living in a society where those most vulnerable are left to die. I suspect that most American’s think that such a thing is inconceivable. However, there is a powerful minority in this county that is working actively to shred what little social safety network remains in the United States.
“Out of the abundance of the heat, the mouth speaks.” What fills your heart and soul? What place do compassion, charity, and love of neighbor have in your spiritual life and values? How should these values be reflected in society for the common good? Each of us must add our voices to the social dialogue on these issues for the benefit of our society.
© 2011, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.