It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves.
Perhaps we still have a basically superstitious tendency to associate failure with dishonesty and guilt – failure being interpreted as “punishment.” Even if a man starts out with good intentions, if he fails we tend to think he was somehow “at fault.” If he was not guilty, he was at least “wrong.” And “being wrong” is something we have not yet learned to face with equanimity and understanding. We either condemn it with god-like disdain or forgive it with god-like condescension. We do not manage to accept it with human compassion, humility and identification.
Thus we never see the one truth that would help us begin to solve our ethical and political problems: that we are all more or less wrong, that we are all at fault, all limited and obstructed by our mixed motives, our self-deception, our greed, our self-righteousness and our tendency to aggressivity and hypocrisy.
-Thomas Merton, ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’
I get extremely irked and annoyed when I see other people passing judgment on others and/or ‘forgiving with god-like condescension’ while seemingly miraculously oblivious to their own greater blindness. Very, very irked. Very, very annoyed. It is even worse when I am the subject of such judgment and or condescension.
But there has been a growing awareness within me in recent weeks. Whenever I get irked, I ask myself if I am not myself doing the very same thing to others. And the answer is always yes, I am. It is so easy to analyze and judge the sins of another person and label that person a hopeless sinner, and then to ‘forgive’ that person while treating him or her like someone that doesn’t actually deserve that forgiveness. Thus, when I ‘forgive’, I see the other as undeserving, and I as the ‘better person’. I know that is NOT compassion.
I am also much more aware now that my inability to be understanding and compassionate to others’ faults lie in my own self-rejection and self-hatred. I never used to be aware that I had self-hatred, but I realize now how important it is to realize just how insecure I am and how that is holding me back from being compassionate.
It really isn’t easy, but I’ve been trying to remind myself each time I get riled up by another person’s flaws to turn my attention inwards. Regardless of how right or wrong others are, there is always something in me I can grow to accept, and in learning to accept in me, I can also accept with understanding and compassion in others.
Underneath all the screwed up things that we do to one another, we are all essentially the same. We are lonely, hesitant and insecure people, trying to grasp assurance of our worth in different and often misguided ways. Yes, we must all take responsibility for our actions. But it is just as essential to recognize how much of our liberty to act has been lost due to fear and sin.
Lord, help me each day to look upon my brothers and sisters and to see the child You love in them. Let me never use justice as an excuse to judge another. Do what You will to make me compassionate so that I can belong to You more each day. Amen.