I remember an occasion after the September 11th attack on the N.Y. Trade Centre; a multi religious prayer gathering was organized. It was planned to include all major religions and denominations as a symbol of solidarity for peace. Sadly, one of the major denominations of Christianity was not represented because both its divided bodies were invited. Neither body would accept the invitation because the other faction was invited. It seemed to me a very powerful example of the illogic behind the violence embracing so much of the world today.
Before peace can be attained we must be able to find acceptance for others just the way they are, before we can accept others the way they are we must be able to accept ourselves as good enough without needing to do anything. Unfortunately very few of us can accept that others don’t need to change, that they are good enough just the way they are.
That is because few of us truly have accepted that God is perfect without our help. Almost all of us seem to believe we need to help God to fix the world or at least the people of the world, because it’s just common sense to recognize all the things that aren’t working. Common sense is a dangerous argument for changing others. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Our ‘prejudices’ will never improve the world; and we don’t need to fix anyone except ourselves. If this is true then what remains of the purpose of our actions, our efforts to help others? What would be the purpose for becoming a doctor or a missionary or expounding a religious doctrine? What would be the purpose of helping anyone? To help ourselves! We can only see our feelings; our pain, our fear, our anger in our relationships, principally to others. It is always our emotions that reveal the beliefs and ideas that keep us from God, or as the great teacher Jesus said, “the father within.” If we of service could truly and honestly look at why we do the work we do, we would unanimously have to admit it is because of what we get that we give. It is the payoffs.
What do we get? The answers are probably as varied as the people who serve. For many it is as simple as the money, but it is very rarely just that. It is much more likely the recognition we receive; when our friends and colleagues clap us on the back and congratulate us on a job well done. Or our fulfillment may come through our clients ‘apparent’ recoveries and life changes. We get to feel deeply when we witness a heart filled with pain; we are enriched when we feel those pains apparently dissolve and that life find new strength. But in truth what we are feeling is ours. We can’t really feel their pain. We can feel sympathy or empathy from our own experiences, so the feelings would then be our own healing. We receive our own healing through helping. But what if we really can feel another person’s pain? Then it would naturally follow that we really are connected on some fundamental level. In which case as we heal and help those other people we are really healing and helping ourselves. In all cases it is what we receive that ultimately dictates our actions. So when we are giving, when we are being of service let us remember that we are really acting very selfishly; it is not really about them except to the degree that it is about us. And whether we are down there on the streets or up there in the corporate suites, to the degree that we are following and living our passion having a transcendent picture of the implications of our work in the world, we are being of service.
All of this means that other people are exactly where they are for our own greatest good. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what they think, what they believe or how they live except that with open minds we are able to grow by our relationship with them. All that ultimately matters is that we have feelings, that we recognize the root causes of those feelings which come alive in our relating with those people we serve and that we be willing to embrace and grow through those feelings. In so doing we truly will transform the world one heart at a time.