A friend recently mentioned the inherent difficulty in helping someone change, particularly if there is a presenting personality disorder (in the friend’s case, narcissistic). Not only is it difficult (some behavioral scientists think impossible) to treat or influence the attitude and behavior of one who displays the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it is very difficult to persuade a majority of “normal” people with facts. The problem lies with the issue of identity. When I believe something with any conviction, I identify with that position. Of course, if you think much about it, this is likely intuitive to most people. What happens is data that does not support ones view triggers negative emotion that hampers the ability to see another point of view. Exacerbating the problem, the data is often spewed ad hominem.
The trouble is we do most of our communication with words—tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube and article shares, and petition upon petition. All the while, these sentiments and “facts” (some absolutely based on scientific rigor, others, not so much—some even fake by design!) only serve to bolster ones own stance (“see, this article supports my view,” or “what a hack, I can’t believe they really buy into that”).
This is why it is even more crucial that we, particularly as leaders intentionally make time and space in mindfulness spiritual practice—together. The Shema, essentially the Jewish Lord’s Prayer, translates “hear” or “listen.” It is called the Shema because it is the very first word of the prayer, but it is also how the people are addressed most every time God directly speaks to them. Not only that, when God speaks, it is often that God interjects “I have heard their cry.” God listens to us!
Because of Jesus, we have personal access, freedom to hear with the same Spirit that witnesses to our spirit, God’s word to us. But how can we hear if we do not listen? How can we know the fullness of God’s speaking if we do not also hear it through others—all of whom are made in that same God’s image. I don’t mean listening to propaganda that seeps its way into the rhetoric, or the regurgitation of ideologies that may or may not be supported by current leadership. Rather, I mean listening to what comes from spending time together first listening to God—this God that is One, who reveals to us that we must (and can) love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The second part (to love our neighbors as ourselves) implies action. To love is to do so actively. And to love . . . is to know . . . and to know is to love. When I love someone, I must suspend my own perspective—I don’t mean discard my perspectives indiscriminately. But by doing so I make space for another person to be seen, time for greater understanding behind the words. In that graced space there is more room to expand—in perspective and in love.
It has to be intentional, though. We did some of this during my thesis project to beautiful effect. There is so much more possible! Who will make the first move? Let’s get together and try it out. Who is with me?