Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

The Way Out

Reason says, the world is limited in six directions
There is no way out
Love says, there is a way
And I have traveled it many times
~ Rumi

I’ve been reading a book titled Shadow Mountain, by Renee Askins, who was a central figure in the wolf restoration project in Yellowstone. One of the biggest hurdles was the forceful resistance of ranchers and others who feared the impact of wolves on livestock. In writing about this standoff, Askins says:

We needed to understand the opposition better by really listening to their concerns. Although many … would call that accommodation, I called it compassion. I really wanted to obliterate the “us against them” model … by recognizing human concerns rather than enemy positions.

I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to put someone in that “them” category, and about the effects of such a label on my willingness and ability to listen. And even when I do listen, I catch myself listening from a perspective that seeks to reinforce my own position, to protect myself from having to question my own assumptions, to avoid having to acknowledge things I’d rather not face. 

In other words, I’m not really listening.

Years ago, I was having an intense, emotionally charged argument with someone. I wanted so desperately for the other person to understand my position. What that means is that I wanted the other person to agree with me, to see that I was right. What that means is that I did not want to be seen as the “bad guy” in the situation. The conflict escalated as we continued to state and restate our arguments. 

It appeared that there was no way out. We were both reaching exhaustion when I suddenly had what seemed to be an out of body experience. I had the sensation of switching into the other chair, looking through the eyes of the other person, seeing myself and the situation from his perspective. And what I saw shocked me. He was absolutely right. I was making a decision that hurt him deeply. I was indeed the bad guy. 

What happened next was that I felt tremendous compassion for him. And for me too. I could acknowledge the impact my decision had on him. And how hard it was for me to face that. We connected through our shared pain. 

I wonder how much of our insistence on labeling someone as “them” is about wanting to feel better about “us.” That is very human, isn’t it? And yet all our justifications keep us trapped. Meanwhile, love beckons, whispering, “This way. This is the way out. Follow me.” 

Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. ~Mother Teresa

8 thoughts on “The Way Out”

  1. That was a great video — thanks for sharing it. I especially loved her last point about listening: Be prepared to be amazed. I had a professor in law school for whom English was a second language, so he often had an unusual way of expressing things. Once he told us to "turn to page 157 and be amazed." Not something you usually think about in connection to law school texts. However, I did turn to that page with an eager anticipation that I would not have otherwise had.

    Thanks for commenting and sharing the video.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this one and liked all of your thoughts. I agree and I loved the quote by Mother Teresa.
    I do have a love for humanity and know that all are our spiritual brothers and sisters. I feel like Satan is busy and will remain so due to his time being shortened. I don't believe that our beloved Savior is that far away from the His coming. There is a lot left to do before then but a lot to go through too.
    I hope all your family is remaining well. We are doing good and just trying to be vigilant on staying safe. We are in the older high risk range and certainly don't want to be in quarantine forever.
    Sending hugs your way!

  3. These troubled and fractious times can have us all on edge, clawing for "advantage" in our favor. That is not what it's all about, and you've clarified it here perfectly, Galen. When we are asked to walk one mile with burdens, we need to walk two, knowing God is with us. Yes, may we love all whom we meet and strive, with God's help, to understand, and in time, connect.
    Blessings, my friend!

  4. Thanks for commenting, LeAnn. My family is well, thanks. The eight year old is getting very restless however. Understandable. You have such a big family. I know you missing seeing them all.

  5. Thanks, Martha. That is a good reminder that when someone asks us to walk alongside for a mile, we can give even more and walk alongside twice as far. Walking alongside right now is a wonderful image.

  6. I love this post, as I do most of your thoughtful and insightful ones you share. I am examining my own prejudices these days, since I always thought I didn't have any. Big mistake. Walking with those who don't have the same values as I do is one way to do that. You have given me incentive to keep on trying to find new pathways to love and forgiveness.

  7. I know, DJan. We are all being asked to take an honest look at ourselves. It is an uncomfortable process, but in a way it's a relief to let go of all our defenses and denials. Those take a lot of energy, energy that can be better used to connect in loving ways. Thanks for commenting.

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