Let’s just admit something that’s simply true: life can be very difficult. For decades, war has raged in the Middle East and Central Asia with no real solution in sight as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to Europe. Each day, children and youth are gunned-down in the streets of the United States. Millions of people live in poverty, without food or clean water. Countless others live in homes marked by violence and abuse. Yes, life can be very difficult.
There are those who look at these problems with a sense of resignation. They claim, “It must be God’s will.” Or they say life’s difficulties are a result of karma. Or people are down on their luck because they just don’t work hard enough. Those are nothing more than easy excuses to rationalize away the world’s problems. A good god doesn’t cause suffering. Failings in the past don’t haunt us for a life time. People who are poor work much harder to survive than do the rich. No, I can’t accept any such excuses or rationalizations.
Some others blame the tragedy of the world on human sinfulness. There may be some truth in this perspective, but it’s also problematic. Those who blame darkness in the world on sin are usually the folks who view sin as personal wrong-doing or sexual acts. To that end, I can’t accept that a fourteen year old exploring his or her own body is the root of human suffering. Nor can I accept that a dubious concept like “original sin” is the basis for the hardship in the world. That’s just another way to rationalize the suffering of others so that we don’t have to respond to the pain of others.
In fact, I contend that the hardship prevalent in the world is the result of how human beings choose to treat other human beings. It’s the ways in which people seek out power, privilege, and status over others out of a belief in some sort of superiority.
Here’s the astounding thing: while human beings are the cause of most of the pain, suffering, and injustice in the world, human beings also have the potential to be the light for the world. Western Christian theology has generally looked at the reality of suffering that’s caused by human beings and concluded that people are simply depraved and have no good in them. That’s a kind of knee-jerk response that fails to properly assess human potential.
Despite the horror that people bring on each other every day, I continue to believe that people are fundamentally good. While we may not choose to act from that goodness, while various circumstances may have caused that goodness to be overshadowed or buried within us, while the pain of life may have damaged us to the point that we cannot recognize goodness within, I affirm that goodness remains at our core.
The simple challenge we all face is to stir up goodness in the world by affirming the goodness within us and acting from the core part of our being which is characterized by goodness, wholeness, and light. My experience is that the capacity to experience the goodness within each of us can grow. Such growth increases our ability to view other people from a compassionate perspective. From this vantage point, we begin to treat others with deeper respect because we are reflecting the goodness we know inside of us. That’s when the suffering we cause each other begins to end.
The process of this kind of growth is essentially a two step process, but the steps happen simultaneously, much like walking. Putting one foot forward requires that we remove the things that prevent us from experiencing our inner goodness: psychic wounds, resentments, anger, self-pity, doubt, guilt, and shame. The second foot comes along as we recognize and affirm that there is something truly wonderful about our own being: the goodness deep within. This two-step process continues, resulting in the discovery that we each have the capacity for a kind of largeness of heart that welcomes others as they are and extends to them the warmth of compassion.
Yes, life can be very difficult. At times, it seems as though the world is shrouded with darkness and pain. Yet, there is immeasurable light to be found. That light is within you and within me. In the midst of the darkness, we each need to realize that ability we have to use the light within us to illumine the world for others.
© 2015, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.