It’s so easy to feel resentful that others are not as we would want them to be. We want them to change but can be so blind to where change is needed in us. The Buddha advised one time ‘to never seek a perfect person or a perfect world. Instead seek to perfect your love’. We will never have a perfect relationship or live in a perfect community, but we can work on ourselves. This often means dropping our judgements, and learning to accept people as they are, and reality just as it is. Most of us are familiar with the Prayer of AA. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Why not pray this version? God, grant me the serenity to accept the people and situations I cannot change. Courage, to change the one that I can. And, the wisdom to know that it’s ME.
There’s a story about a farmer who grew award-winning wheat. Each year he entered his crop in a competition where it won a blue ribbon. On one such occasion, a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his wheat seed with his neighbours. He asked, ‘Why do you share your best seed with your neighbours each year when you are in competition with them?’ The farmer said, ‘The wind picks up pollen from the ripening wheat, and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbours grow low-grade wheat, cross-pollination will degrade the quality of mine. If I’m to grow good wheat, I must help my neighbours do the same’.
Clearly, the farmer was aware of the connectedness of life. He knew that his wheat couldn’t improve unless his neighbours’ did also. Everything is connected to everything else; nothing, and nobody, exists in isolation. In short, we all need each other, not just human beings, but everything else as well. Life can be a win-win situation for all.
Jesus on one occasion summarised his moral teaching as love of God and love of neighbour. The two commandments were one, he said, like two sides of a coin. Love isn’t selective; it embraces all. To close our heart to one person is, in a true sense, to close it to all. That is why a willingness to forgive is a necessary condition for love.
Love is an invitation, not a command. It is a call to be human. The only authentically human way to live is in self-giving affection. There is only one thing which can create unity in our lives and action, and that is love. It heals the divided self, and calms the civil wars that rage within us. To allow ourselves to be loved is the first step to personhood, because love is the fundamental calling of every human being. It leads a person from isolation and loneliness to community.
Love is one of God’s practical jokes. God says, in effect, ‘Forget about yourself; think of the other person. If you do, the first person to benefit will be yourself. By forgetting about yourself, you won’t be the loser; you’ll be the winner’. That turns logic upside down, but the experience of life shows it to be true. There is only one way of getting love, and that is to give it. If you want to have a friend, be a friend. Where there is no love, pour love in, and we will draw love out.
For those in a hurry: from Toyohiko Kagawa, Japanese Christian trade unionist, 1888-1960:
‘Love is God’s Holy of Holies.
Love alone is salvation.
Only in the Temple of Love do we worship God.
Love alone introduces God to us.
Where love is, there God is’.