Compassionate Understanding of Others
There is in this country a very strong drive toward freedom. The desire for freedom can become so strong that one wants to throw off the shackles of limitation. Yet, we don’t understand how sacrifice works, ‘sacrifice’ being the willing limitation of freedom in order to allow the freedom of all.
Welcome, beloved ones, to Words of Light. This is yet another day in which to be conscious of our relationship to the life around us, to the people we meet during the day, and to the ones we hear about.
It’s very easy in this time to judge other people who have different views from you about many things. You know that. You know that there are some people’s behaviors that strike you as hard to believe and hard to accept. We are sometimes given a more compassionate understanding of what drives people to do things that we think are improbable and potentially harmful, but we don’t always have that understanding. Much of the time we have to operate with minimal understanding and give people the benefit of the doubt in the biblical sense, that is: “they know not what they do.” That also applies to us as well.
Unconsciousness operates within every human being to some degree because there is such a thing as unconscious motivation. Unconsciousness means that we don’t fully become aware of the effects of our actions. We may be aware in a superficial way, but we don’t really grasp that when we don’t do something or we do something, it affects many others. Sometimes, we have the good fortune of somebody who’s close to us telling us: “This is the effect that you’re having. You think that you’re invisible but that’s not the case. This is the effect of how you speak, how you present yourself, what you do,” and so on.
But we don’t always have that. And sometimes when we have somebody in our life who will point that out to us, we rebel against it anyway because we don’t want anybody telling us what to do. We don’t want anybody having an opinion about us that we have not generated ourselves.
Bearing this in mind, I would like you to look at this tendency inside yourself, this desire to not be aware of the motives of your own behavior, to think that you know everything there is to know about why you do what you do.
Bearing this in mind, I would like you to look at this tendency inside yourself, this desire to not be aware of the motives of your own behavior, to think that you know everything there is to know about why you do what you do. And when I say ‘behavior,’ I’m including the words you speak and the way you express yourself. And I’m not saying ‘you,’ personally, but human beings in general. We don’t know all the routes of unconsciousness in us, and that’s why in the not-knowing we need to be forgiving, because we don’t know.
One of the things that’s easy to observe, today, is the overt conflict about our responses as a society to the coronavirus precautions that are advised as guidelines. These have to do with ‘social distancing’ and wearing face coverings, also with the opening and the speed of opening of various public places. The news is filled on a daily basis with discussions about this, but rarely is there an in-depth interpretation or investigation of what someone’s motives are about seemingly disregarding guidelines, or about deciding to do something that is deemed to be detrimental or harmful by somebody else.
There is in this country a very, very strong drive towards freedom. We don’t talk about it so much because we live with it in great measure. We live with the feeling that we can do pretty much what we want to do with our life. It’s our life, so we can do what we want with it. But we don’t feel the great intensity of that desire for personal freedom until something comes along that feels like it infringes upon our freedom. This is the situation with respect to the coronavirus precautions today.
When that happens, some people accept that limitation in service to the greater good of the freedom of all. Yet, others feel that the principle of individual freedom and all that’s been involved in that historically, emotionally, and spiritually at all levels, is a compelling need that must be met, that causes one to want to throw off the shackles of limitation. It’s very easy, in principle, to see how this might be true, how the commitment to freedom, because of the nature of our nation’s founding and what lives within us as a principle of utmost importance, could be that strong. But we don’t as easily understand the reverse, namely, how sacrifice works, sacrifice being the willing limitation of personal freedom in order to allow the freedom of all. I think in concept that we do understand this, and in practice the flame of the desire for freedom can burn so strongly that it overrides many other things, emphasizing the right to do what we want to do with our own life.
How does one counter that principle when it seems to others that such an assumption of personal freedom hurts somebody else?
There isn’t an easy answer to this question because what’s obvious to you is not obvious to someone else in the same way. We are different from one another in how these motives of freedom and protecting the freedom of others balance in ourselves. We are different from one another. What we assess to be ‘harm’ differs within our varied perspectives, and also the burning flame of the desire for individual freedom is stronger in some people than in others for all kinds of reasons, including spiritual reasons. Many hold these principles very strongly within their deepest heart.
I’m speaking to you about these things, today, because we’re at a time, on a global level, of people taking different roads about what they’re willing to sacrifice and for whom, and the roads are so diverse that one could be shocked that so many different conclusions about what’s needed could come about. But there you are. Among states and among nations, today, the road that’s being traveled to balance the feeling of the need for individual freedom with concern for the wellbeing of all has many different variations. One variation includes concern for the economic picture of what one should be allowed to do in terms of reopening this arena of public life. The controversy about this has many motives affecting it. It’s not just about freedom. It’s also about economic security. This includes the freedom to make a living and the freedom to choose to work in the way one wants to instead of being limited by someone else’s standard of how one should work. The motive toward freedom and the motive toward economic security are often merged together.
I’m speaking to you this way in an effort to convey the great importance of seeing the humanity of individuals, no matter what their point of view, and also as a way of asking you to examine your own humanity, your own willingness to accept something that feels like limitation which you don’t want to have there. And I’m not speaking, now, of just the precautions related to coronavirus. I’m speaking in general about self-protection and self-sacrifice. What limitations are you refusing to accept because you don’t want them there? What limitations are you choosing to overthrow or rebel against because of the pain they create? What limitations can you accept?
When you look at the subject of the ‘right to ownership’ of one’s own life, the questions are complex and the answers have to be equally complex. It’s not one thing that we’re looking at. It’s the balance of motivation in human beings that have priorities one, two, three, and four, given to various aspects of life.
And so, when we see some people being unwilling to observe the guidelines related to coronavirus containment, it’s not that we have to approve their behavior, but we need to understand that motivation is more complex than just thinking somebody doesn’t care. Perhaps there are people who don’t care about what happens to other people. Undoubtedly, there are. But that would be a very negative way of looking at human motivation, and there’s something deeper than this that we need to understand that operates. This is the flame that can burn within a heart and soul that has a history in relation to freedom which prevents that soul and that heart from willingly letting go of something that somebody else would not find a problem. They simply wouldn’t find it to be problematic. Yet, for the soul that is holding on, it is everything.
We live in a collective human family where different people express different ‘notes’ in a composition of great beauty.
We live in a collective human family where different people express different ‘notes’ in a composition of great beauty. You can call it different aspects of the soul, or different qualities of relationship to the essential self. We need to discuss this ‘differentness’ more deeply, including that aspect that has to do with what is harmful to other people. We need to have a discussion about what is ‘responsible behavior’ and what is indifference. But while we’re having that discussion, we also need to look at ourselves, not just at the other people, and ask: What are we responsible for, and what are we not taking responsibility for that limits other people or that causes harm to them?
This is a subtle thing. It’s not that we’re intending to do harm. It’s that we accept our surface-level assessment of our motives and don’t always look further into what we’re willing to give up and what we feel we must hold on to.
I had the good fortune a few days ago of listening to someone speak from the standpoint of being a successful capitalist entrepreneur who had made billions of dollars, and I mean billions with a ‘b.’ He spoke about his ability, willingness, and desire to let go of that identification with wealth, and was earnestly trying to educate other wealthy individuals to do the same. He wanted to let go of the ‘wealth is success’ attitude, and of superiority connected with material accomplishment. He talked about the ways, philosophically and materially, that he had come to wanting to be taxed more, and for the wealthy of this country to be taxed more, in order to redistribute wealth within society. It is very unusual for somebody who is a billionaire to be speaking like this. It’s not absolutely unusual, but relatively so, because most of us typically become attached to our identity and are very vehement about not giving it up, especially when we appear to be benefitting from a system that supports our behavior and beliefs.
If what I’m saying to you in all of this can make you two percent less vehement about the ‘rightness’ of what you’re doing or thinking and the ‘wrongness’ of what somebody else is doing or thinking, that’s good. Even two percent is good. Because humility asks of us that we be humble, forgiving, and compassionate when we don’t know why someone is doing what they’re doing. Love asks us to perceive the humanity within all beings, behind whatever behavior we observe, whether we understand it or not. In relation to our collective dilemma of knowing how to discourage more widespread occurrence of coronavirus, the stakes are very high. And so, many of us can’t understand what people are doing when they seem to not care about what’s going on. We can’t understand, and so we judge. And often we are mistaken.
Therefore, let’s try, when these issues that are so active, today, come up in our collective consciousness, to not erase the possible humanity of another, which includes believing that there is a positive motivation within somebody’s behavior that we disagree with entirely, or that we disapprove of entirely. Where possible, let’s look at the humanity behind that behavior, holding the perspective that somewhere in it is a belief in something positive and good, even though the behavior seems to be entirely negative and may, in fact, be causing harm from the perspective that we hold.
What I’m asking is for you to understand the roots of compassion, and why we should look for compassion. And I’m giving you this example about the history of this nation and of our relationship to the pursuit of freedom. These are some things to consider in the complexity of your understanding. Our capacity to judge others less harshly has to come from how we view ourselves in relation to our own unconscious motivation. We can be more charitable with ourselves and we can be more compassionate towards other people. That way, we don’t divide up our national family and our global family into pieces, into those we accept and those we reject. That way, we don’t do that.
I pray for all beings that we can find the compassion to look more deeply into the heart of another and not judge the surface as the being. I pray that we can assess behavior with our deepest sense of truth, yet know that the humanity of the heart which is connected to the soul is still present somewhere that we may not be able to see.