Jump to menu. Jump to content. Jump to search.

Go to the CCE home page.

You Don't Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right

Follow Us: Join LearningLife on Facebook.  Join CCE on LinkedIn. 

January 2009 Archives

Once again I found that the chapters in You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right I had set out to write about provided an inspiring lens through which to view world events.

Reading chapter five, “Keeping Score: Making Judgments Without Becoming Judgmental,� chapter six, “Mosquechurchagogue: Finding Unity Not Forcing Uniformity,� and chapter seven, “The Bishop of Auschwitz: When the Whole Really Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts,� in the week of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th US president, made it abundantly clear that we have the vision necessary create a better future, if only we can grasp it and make it real.

I want to draw your attention to another transition ritual, the Havdalah ceremony described in chapter seven. The Havdalah signifies the end of the Shabbat and the start of the week ahead, and in Hirschfield’s words, “marks a new beginning, an opportunity to reenter the world and reengage in the work of making our world a better place.� (p. 161) He goes on to explain the symbolism of the objects used in the ceremony, and from these ideas I’ve built several questions for you to consider:

1. The flame of the braided, multi-wicked Havdalah candle represents “our ability to create and build.� (p. 163) How, during the transitions in your life, are you seizing the chance to create and build?

2. The smelling of sweet spices calls on us to “[breathe] in deeply and [search] out the opportunities for such sweetness even in the most unexpected places.� (pp. 163-164) Where might beauty and joy lie, if only you were open to sensing their presence?

3. The wine being blessed “does not grow on vines; it requires human partnership to unleash the full potential of all that we find in the world around us.� (p. 164) Who or what is waiting for you to reach out in partnership and what potential might this fulfill?

As in my last post, I’d advise you not to be concerned about whether your acts will have earth-shattering effects, simply be mindful that small steps, if taken by each of us every day, will add up to real change.

I’d like to close with one more quote:

“We will figure out that the challenge is never how to get us all into a single room, but how to build a structure with enough rooms for everyone, rooms in which to live out our lives safely and pursue the happiness to which we all aspire, with the awareness that standing in each of them comes with both challenges and gifts.� (p. 154)

Make of your room a welcoming place and take the risk to explore the rooms of others – inaugurate a new era of understanding and mutual respect where we share both our challenges and our gifts.

I had already chosen to focus on chapters one through four of You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right in this post, however the material in chapter three, “The Shadow Side of Faith: Learning That We Can Be Both Victims and Victimizers," and chapter four, “Vengeance, Forgiveness, Justice, and Mercy: Recognizing the Sacredness of All Our Feelings," now feel particularly apt given recent events in Gaza and Congo as well as closer to home.

“Turning personal or national suffering into a source for healing is never easy, but unless that remains our top priority, we’ll be left with a world in which everybody has a finely honed sense of how his particular past allows him to undermine someone else’s future.� (p. 66)

“[The] marriage of justice and revenge is always a death spiral. We know that all it does is give us just enough moral high ground to do to other people precisely what we wouldn’t want done to us.� (p.93)

With these quotes in mind, and, if you have read them, the first four chapters, consider the following questions:

1. What personal issue are you grappling with where you would benefit from letting go of old hurts? Where do you see your nation suffering from an inability to move beyond past wrongs?

2. When have you allowed your desire for justice to cloud your judgment? When have you found room to exercise mercy and forgiveness rather than seek vengeance?

3. Where have you created difference, separation or rejection by labeling others? By labeling yourself? How can acknowledging and accepting difference help you to fashion a more integrated and balanced life?

Note that these need not be life or death concerns, they could be (as on p. 94) sharing your distress and exploring possible motives after hearing a friend’s negative comments, rather than holding a grudge, looking for an opportunity to respond in kind, or pigeonholing him or her as rude and unpleasant.

I’d like to close with one more quote and a thought on resolutions for the new year:

“[T]raditions exist not to serve the faithful, but to help the faithful serve the world. The traditions are there for anyone to use to craft his or her own life.� (p. 51)

As we move into 2009, seek to rediscover your own traditions and make connections with other traditions in order to better “serve the world.�