My life makes sense to me. The lives of others make sense to them. Our lives make sense because our perspective naturally arise out of everything we’ve experienced.
I grew up in the Catholic church. I formed my opinions and ideas about what it meant to be a Catholic through all my experiences associated with that religion – some were traumatic. In response to these difficult situations, I developed strong negative opinions and an aversion to the Catholic faith. For much of life I could see only the problems associated with religion. In fact, I often looked for evidence to justify my thoughts about the church.
There are many others, including my wonderful father, who have found joy, security, and guidance through the Catholic Church. For many years I couldn’t understand why. I figured that they were either blind or were denying the [obvious] cruelties and injustices that I experienced. In my naïveté, I judged the people who lived by Catholic doctrine as shortsighted hypocrites. I’m grateful that today I can see beyond my experience and can recognize the beauty and usefulness of the Church. As it turns out, the Catholic Church is bigger than my experience of it.
As I was growing up, a fraction of my worldview was formed by the discussions we had, or didn’t have, around the dinner table. My worldview was also developed by the town in which I lived, the schools I attended, and the friends I associated with. The constant throughout my life was me. I was everywhere I went. My experiences are personal to me. This is my path. This is true for everyone. We each have experiences personal to ourselves. Even within the same family, through nature and nurture, my sisters and I experience life differently, have different beliefs, and act differently. What we think makes sense to us because it arises from our experience. We have all the evidence we need to support our thoughts and opinions.
When I was in graduate school, I learned that I was racist. I was not taught to be racist growing up. And yet I was. I was taught to respect everyone, color wasn’t mentioned. In fact, I remember seeing a black man in person for the first time when I was around seven years old. I recall staring in awe. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My mom said stop staring, and that was pretty much the end of it. In my hometown, the only people of color were Latino. In my innocence, I just thought they had a good tan. We didn’t talk about race around the kitchen table. I didn’t know about the atrocities and injustices towards people of color. As I got older, I just assumed that their experiences were similar to mine. My racism was developed not through hatred or superiority, my racism originated out of ignorance. I didn’t know that my thoughts, words, and actions were insensitive to the experience of people of color.
I formed my political ideals based on my experiences. My passion for the environment is a result of my experiences. My worldview and what I do and say has developed over time and is cultivated through each of my experiences. My experience is personal to me. My Path. This is true for everyone.
A mindfulness practice can help to open our mind to the experience of others.
It would be wise for us to remember that the questionable actions of others that we tend to judge so harshly make as much sense to them as ours do to us. Forgetting, or denying, the times in my life when my actions were uncaring, unthinking, and even cruel, I beat my head against the wall for years trying to make sense of the behavior of “those” people. Until recently, I lacked the tools that help me to see that their life makes sense to them, as ridiculous as it may seem to me. I’m also able to recognize meow that all my unhealthy, unskillful, and unbeneficial actions made sense to me at the time. We are all doing the best we can.
Maybe if I had listened more attentively while attending church as a child, I could have heard Jesus’ words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Grounded in their life’s experiences, their actions made sense to them.
There’s a lot going on in our world right now. While we need to be compassionately held accountable for our words and actions, may we each be mindful of the fact that people are making the best decisions they can given their level of awareness and their life’s experiences. While it may not make sense to you, it makes sense to them. Maybe it would be useful to empathetically explore why.
With Appreciation for You,
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