Three good thoughts for the day

The first comes from Dallas Willard, via Richard Beck’s blog:

Our mistake is to think that following Jesus consists in loving our enemies, going “the second mile.” turning the other cheek, suffering patiently and hopefully–while living the rest of our lives just as everyone around us does….

We cannot behave “on the spot” as [Jesus] did and taught if in the rest of our time we live as everyone else does. The “on the spot” episodes are not the place where we can, even by the grace of God, redirect unchristlike but ingrained tendencies of action toward sudden Christlikeness. Our efforts to take control at that moment will fail so uniformly and so ingloriously that the whole project of following Christ will appear ridiculous to the watching world. We’ve all seen this happen.

Knowing what is right does not lead to doing what is right. We have to somehow become a person from whom right actions flow naturally.

The second comes from C.S. Lewis:

Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.

A lot about what we need to understand about right action can only be understood in the midst of acting that way. We can’t really know what it is to love our neighbor without loving him, however imperfectly, and in the loving we can see what it really means to love, and perhaps see our way to loving better. We need to get up close and look, and look long and hard, and then look again.

The third comes from Seth Godin:

What you say is not nearly as important as what we hear.

Which means that the words matter, and so does the way we say them. And how we say them. And what we do after we say them.

It takes two to be understood. Not just speaking clearly, but speaking in a way that you can be understood.

Empathy is not sufficient. Compassion is more useful, because it’s possible to talk to someone who is experiencing something that you’ve never experienced.

This describes a thing where I’ve moved from not doing it at all, to doing it awkwardly and artificially, to doing it as a practice, to doing it habitually, to having it as part of my nature. In the beginning I thought what I had to say was the important thing, and the person listening was obligated to figure it out. Then I realized I was wrong, and that I was obligated to make myself not just understandable but understood. That was at least twenty years ago, and much of the time since has been spent getting to a place where now it will hardly even occur to me to speak unless I am more or less certain I can speak in such a way that the hearer will understand, clearly and exactly. Not that there aren’t times when I have to speak anyway, because the need to say something outweighs my inability to say it clearly. But in those situations I practically have to force myself to do it.

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