by Ross Bishop
The center is our natural place. There, everything is in harmony. But we usually don’t remain there for long. After all, how can you remain centered when the world around you is going to pieces? How do you remain calm when others are being hurt, get diseases or even die? How do you make sense of the cruelty in the world when innocents and children are suffering or being hurt?
Or, on the other hand, what does it mean when none of this affects someone? When a person seems to have no compassion? And God forbid, what if some of this misfortune were to befall you? For example, what if you were to get cancer? How would you deal with that? The question is, “How are you supposed to understand and deal with suffering?’
We get angry at suffering because we feel powerless to do much about it. That’s a totally natural response. But we are still left with the question, “How do I deal with these situations?”
I said to a client, “If you want to make the changes you desire, you’ll have to find the faith to let go of your old ways of behaving and step into that which is unknown and unfamiliar.” I reminded her of Martin Luther King’s, “Faith is taking the first step even though you can’t see the whole staircase.”
And she replied, “How can I find faith when every one of my life lessons has been painful, pushes on my shortcomings, exposes my fears and makes me feel even more vulnerable?”
My answer to her was that viewing life depends a lot on which side of the telescope you view it from. From the human perspective, life can be a real pain. And she’s right, life is painful, exposes our shortcomings and makes us feel vulnerable. But if you look through the other end of the telescope, from God’s perspective, things look a lot different. Those painful lessons are all opportunities to come to terms with your fears and beliefs and move beyond them.
When I was training Izzy, my dog, I would give her lots of praise when she did something well and tell her “No” when she didn’t listen. Well, God does the same thing with us, but we humans can be the most stubborn and cantankerous creatures in the universe! We don’t listen! (More about that in a minute.)
Think about how beautifully life goes when you live according to Universal Principles – you know, the things that Christ taught and what is in the Ten Commandments: “Love one another,” “Don’t lie or steal,” “Help one another,” “Do unto others . . . ,” “Care for the less fortunate,” – you know the drill. Living according to these principles is the definition of heaven on earth.
Conversely, look at the pain and struggles we create for ourselves when we are self-centered, dishonest, cruel, uncaring, greedy and whatnot. It makes for a living hell. (And that doesn’t take into account the impact we have on others!)
You have within you an innate sense of right and wrong. You “know” when something doesn’t add up, is not right or someone else is being treated badly. And you don’t need a U.N. report or a psychological evaluation to prove it. When you see pictures of elephant poaching in Africa or refugees forced from their homes in Syria or some cracker in Georgia trying to cover up voter suppression, you know something is out of wack. Your conscience is sending you signals. But we don’t often hear the message.
And we do not listen to our inner guidance for good reason. There is an inner child who learned that it wasn’t safe to give voice to her inner conscience. Perhaps your family was racially or culturally biased. Maybe your folks or religion taught that people were being punished by God for their sins or that their behavior had led to their downfall. That “good people” didn’t do those things, behave like that or that lower class people or folks with other beliefs were somehow inferior, etc., etc.
Whatever the reason, and it could be a zillion things, your inner child learned that what he or she naturally felt about injustice, bigotry or unfairness was wrong, in other words her natural thinking was defective, and to speak of it was to invite condemnation. So you bent to social pressure and conformed (or rebelled against it).
You came to accept that there really was something wrong with brown people, that only the weak got diseases or that having a difficult life was God’s punishment for sinful behavior, or the opposite. Whatever it was – you learned that your conscience was not to be trusted. You learned to put these beliefs and prejudices before what, at a deeper level, you knew to be true. The thing is, you do care. Your conscience is still there. If you stop and get calm, you can feel the resonance of Universal Truth within you.
And the thing is, your inner kid or kids are angry and frustrated about having to shut down what they know to be true. So when your inner ones witness injustice in the world, they feel the repression that has been forced upon them. But since they are not allowed to express that frustration directly, they focus the energy on external issues you are already concerned about like women’s rights, white privilege, injustice, black lives matter or white supremacy. This happens when you are unwilling or unable to address your internal conflict.
And you are not alone. Your struggle is shared by every person on the planet. How is it that the whole of humanity ends up in the same boat? What is it in our nature that makes us endure incredible hardships while choosing to push away the peace and ease that is freely offered us?
Consider the magnitude of the problem and it will give you some clue as to what we face. The Bhagavad Gita is 6,000 years old, The Ten Commandments are 4,000 years old, Christ was here 2020 years ago and then there are Buddha, Mohammed and thousands of other teachers. And yet, after all that time, and all those teachings, where are we?
I am not unmindful of the progress we have made since the time of the Egyptians and the Romans, but looking down the road, we also have a long way to go. Suddenly what seems like it should be a simple thing, takes on significant proportions. Obviously there are much deeper implications here. And the answer is that this is God’s plan for you and for all of humanity being played out. And this part is difficult for some people to hear, so please bear with me.
We should not judge these things from the human perspective. God is always there, urging us to be more compassionate, to help those in need, to give comfort to the sick. Nothing that happens here is without meaning and purpose. We don’t always listen, but that doesn’t mean that the lesson is not always there. God means for you to get upset.
“I screamed at God for the starving child
until I saw that the starving child was God screaming at me.”
What we miss are that situations of all kinds are created to bring to the surface the unresolved beliefs and inner turmoil of your childhood. God wants you to be aware of those conflicts so that you can deal with them. A significant part of that process is for you to free your inner ones from their prison of fear and belief that you keep them in, so that both they and you can be free to respond to the world from a place of love and compassion, rather than bias and fear. For more about this, see my article “Dealing With Your Problems,” http://www.rossbishop.com/dealing-with-your-problems/
We humans, at least at this stage in our development, learn best when we are in crisis. The best in us comes forward when there is adversity. So guess what happens? So when there is injustice, when children get sick, when people are turned into refugees, it is for everyone’s learning.
Now, if you are upset by what you see, God wants you to respond to that. She wants you to get up off your sofa and do something about the injustice in the world, to help the sick and the homeless and the less fortunate. Why else do you think you are here? To raise two kids, work forty years and then die? You are so much more than that! Don’t sell yourself short! But in doing that you’ll have to confront your reluctance to act. And there is more to that than meets the eye.
The biggest reason we chose not to respond has to do with our sense of lack. It is not lack in the material sense, although that is relevant too, but rather has to do with our feelings of what I am going to call “spiritual deficiency.” Spiritual deficiency comes from feeling that we are not enough, that whatever this thing is, we don’t have enough of it. And I am not speaking of church spirituality here, this goes much deeper. You can think of something related to what psychologists call shame. If you go inside you will feel it. It is that hollow feeling that says, “You are not enough,” or “You are not good enough.” And it is the bane of all humanity.
And because we already feel depleted and degraded it is very difficult to reach out and share what “little” we have. And the fear is that if we give away even the smallest portion of what we have, that we’ll be impoverished even further. It’s not exactly greed, nor is it selfishness, it is a deep seated sense of spiritual and emotional impoverishment that drives virtually everything we do. And what’s interesting about this is if you are truly poor (in a worldly sense) you share. Give a homeless guy $10 and he’s very likely to share it with his friends. What did you do with your last $10?
The origin of spiritual deficiency comes from the work that remains for you to do. So yes, you are not finished and at a deep level you feel that. But you put a pejorative spin on it, you turn it into a negative (we all do). “I am not complete, therefore there must be something wrong with me. I must be inadequate or unworthy.” And this leads to your sense of lack. No matter how much you have, or what you do, it seems it is never going to be enough.
We see this most easily in the material sense in the greedy capitalist who, although he makes thousands and thousands of dollars an hour, never seems to have enough. It is a little harder to see on the non-material side, but how many people do you know who at a fundamental level feel inadequate, empty and unfulfilled? Do you feel that way?
Just look at how powerfully we all need to feel loved, some of us very desperately so. And I am separating liking to be loved from needing to be loved. How many of us enter into relationships, have friendships or do work out of a need to feel validated? Driving this is the core unworthiness (spiritual deficiency) that motivates so much of human behavior. Look at the divorce rate. People get into relationships hoping that the other person will make them feel complete, and when that doesn’t happen, there is extreme disillusionment and frustration. But, rather then look inside for answers, most people just go on to the next person.
And that brings us to the final consideration, what if something happens to you? Again, this can be difficult to hear, but I repeat, everything that happens here is for a purpose. Perhaps you haven’t been listening to the things God has asked of you, haven’t been willing to surrender your fears and your beliefs and as a result, She needs to take you to a place of deeper contemplation. Perhaps you need to stiffen your resolve or find faith. The reasons are many but the answer is always the same . . . to bring you closer to God. To unleash the part of your soul that has been hidden away under fear and muzzled by your false beliefs so that you can stand in the light and do what you came here to do – to live in God’s truth.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” Gilda Radner
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” John Lennon
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