Guest column/Healing the divisions that are separating us
No trespassing. Keep out. Violators will be …
Constructing borders and defending them seems an irresistible proclivity manifested on many levels. From national boundaries to backyard fences and even personal space, there is a strong impulse to establish lines of demarcation that separate us from each other for the purpose of safeguarding. There are consequences.
Territorial violations make the news every day: Illegal border crossings, mass immigration, international as well as personal property disputes, to name a few.
The walls built to keep some in and others out are not confined to physical structures, but also ideated ones, less obvious but just as formidable. Barriers such as distrust, prejudice, indifference and hatred can seem more impenetrable than a barbed wire fence.
On the other hand, an instinctive drive to associate and unite with others impels us to connect. It is an interesting dichotomy: The desire to relate juxtaposed against fears that keep outsiders at arms length. Lifting the barricades that divide us along with the suspicions and angst they foster requires a rethink of accepted comfort zones and an acknowledgement of our native oneness.
We have seen it before. The evidence of unity abounds after tragic incidents and natural disasters when all come together in the aftermath to aid those afflicted. Drawing close together is also a natural inclination when facing a mutual foe. The healing effects of like-mindedness are tangible.
Yet, it does not take a common enemy to unite us. We can stand in solidarity as one family no matter the circumstances and despite the perceived differences that distinguish us from one another.
“One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations;” writes Mary Baker Eddy, “constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.” That is accomplishing something.
Unity is the fabric of a flourishing society that can nourish thriving individuality. Disunity paralyzes cooperative progress. Jesus Christ pointed it out: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” You only have to look to history to see the wisdom behind his statement.
Examples include the unity it took to bring about women’s suffrage in the United States or end apartheid in South Africa.
Jesus went on to define for humanity the nature and source of our oneness and how that should look. The Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes and the Golden Rule were answers to the deep divisions plaguing the world two millennia ago. His empathic response to the exclusionary mood of political and religious leaders and their divisive impact on public sentiment was demonstrated in the healing effect of his love to which he gave God all the credit.
Men and women, whose accounts of isolation and segregation are described in the New Testament, were healed through the love that embraced each individual Jesus came into contact with. These included the adulterous woman, the lepers, the man by the pool and others. The strength of this love, its source in God, ended their exile from others and healed their physical suffering. “Go thy way, thy faith has made thee whole.” Jesus understood that our oneness with God is the very wholeness and health of every individual.
I have experienced this realization of unity over and over again in my life, including the time when rumors were flying about the character of someone who wanted to hire me for a special project. This individual had a “reputation” of being unreasonably critical and difficult to work for. Several colleagues disliked her “style” and the manner in which she acted; and, would have nothing to do with her.
Rather than prematurely condemning this person and accepting others’ verdicts of “faultfinder,” I looked for her God-given qualities of goodness, fairness and accuracy. I did take that job after all, and I found her to be sincere and enjoyable to work for. And my acceptance of her also transformed others’ evaluation of her, allowing for a much improved sense of harmony and inclusiveness for each of us. Her demeanor changed. Seeing her as part of God’s loving family broke down the partitions of misgiving and wariness that had initially separated her from others.
Hiding behind walls of fear, resentment, and isolation in cult-like fashion only lends itself to isolation and polarization. Eddy affirms, “Love (God) is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.'” It is from the stance of wholeness-thinking and welcome-acting that healing blooms.
Personal preferences, beliefs and manners are no obstacle to our respect for each other.
Preserving our individuality doesn’t require the cost of alienating others. Rather, our autonomy lies in our heritage as sons and daughters of divine love, or God, who embraces all always.
The Golden Rule has no perimeter. The embrace of love is never off-limits.
(Salt, a Christian Science practitioner, is a writer and blogger covering science, spirituality and health.)