I was reading this morning a section in Paul Knitter’s book, Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian, a small section that talks about what it means to “be” peace. This has been a tenet of my pacifism for some time now. At some point I became aware that if one brings a broken self into a situation, no matter their actions and words, their brokenness effects the situation. I don’t believe one can totally mask one’s inner turmoil. So if one is full of anger or resentment, they taint a situation. Some might call it an aura. I don’t know what the right word would be. Knitter talks about ego: “’Ego-needs’ embrace a multitude of little devils,” he writes, “anger, fear, ambition, jealousy, stubbornness, self-importance – all the little and big things we need to affirm or protect our substantial self.’
Knitter spent a good portion of his life involved in peace efforts and he admits, “How often in meetings and deliberations of peace activists have I felt myself surrounded by, and one of, a gathering of starved or overweight egos!” When I read this, I thought of government protesters throughout the world who, when they later rose to leadership in a new government, became the very tyrants they abhorred when they were protesters. Egos can deceive us. In fact, I think that is one of ego’s main goals. We even have a name for one’s cooperation with ego – denial.
I get a little message each day in my e-mail from a magazine called the Grapevine. This is the message I read today that seems to fit in perfectly with what Knitter is trying to say: “No matter how truthful the words of my message, there could be no deep communication if what I said and did was colored by pride, arrogance, intolerance, resentment, imprudence, a desire for personal acclaim…even though I was largely unconscious of these attitudes.” (From The Language of the Heart, Bill W.)
Since I believe in this, whenever I have to go into a situation where I encounter people that rouse some negative reaction in me, I pray beforehand that any ego-driven motives will not get in the way of my being open and loving toward them. I pray for wisdom of the Godly kind. I pray that God will help me to see them as He sees them.
You might say that Knitter’s point here and the message from the Grapevine are about my own struggle, as I awakened to my inner attitudes even though I thought I was projecting something positive. God looks at the heart, they say. I need to look with Him and pay attention to what He is trying to teach me about myself.