This week I have been sitting with the violence that we continue to do to one another. In the morning as I rise. In the evening before falling to sleep. In the quiet moments of the day. I have been holding it in my small cupped hands. The latest shooting in Oregon is a reminder of all of the past stories of violence that we’ve experienced.
At a training last Thursday on Black Lives Matter, I heard a story from an African American colleague about his experience of the shooting in the Charleston AME church last June. He said, “When he shot those people, it felt like he shot my sister, my brother, my pastor. It became personal.” His words opened up the trauma within me experienced with each new story of violence. As a minister, Charleston was very personal for me. How many times have I sat with a small group in our congregation on a weekday evening? What if someone shot my beloved colleagues and their congregants at the local African American church or the local Jewish temple? My colleague’s story also reminded me of the Newtown elementary school shooting. That year my daughter was a first grader. I could see her face in the faces of all of those children who died. It felt deeply and profoundly personal.
How do these stories of violence feel personal to you? Which loved one’s face do you see in those who are lost?
This onslaught of violence plants seeds of fear, of isolation, of distrust, of protectionism within me. I typically don’t speak about it, but it lives inside me. I grow watchful of others. I grow wary of connecting. I wonder whether these seeds will take root and grow in my actions. I am scared that these seeds will only lead to more violence – within my being, in my relationships, and out in the world.
And then, I remember how differently I am called to live by my congregation.
As a Unitarian Universalist, my community calls me to name my fear and distrust but not to live from those places. My spirituality invites me to practice non-violence in all I do. So, today, in a moment when I could withdraw, I say hello to my neighbor or a stranger. I see them not as the monster I fear but as inherently worthy of love and kindness. Just as I hope they will see me. For each act of violence, I practice three acts of peace. With each practice of reaching out, my walls of fear crumble. I am creating the world I’d like to live in. This feels to me like the heart of self-compassion.
Who calls you to live your values? How are you practicing the heart of self-compassion?