We see who we are

Issue #66

Hello! Today we look at how what we see in others is mostly self-revelation. I also share four articles I’ve enjoyed from around the web, and include the final instalment of my notes on ‘The Universal Christ’ by Richard Rohr. Enjoy 😊 –Sam

PS There won’t be an email for the next few weeks as I’m on holiday.

First thoughts

‘People accuse me of all kinds of things, both wonderful and terrible. They're usually half-right, of course. But invariably, they're talking about themselves , and they can't see it. This principle of likeness has positive and negative manifestations—what you see over there is what you are in here. Always. Mistrustful people don't know how to trust themselves or anybody else, and so they lay it on you.’

– Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance

This is a quote that has stuck with me since I read it well over a year ago. It’s truth continues to resonate – and challenge.

It begs a simple question. What do I see?

And, related: What does what I see say about me?

What I see in others is nearly always a projection of what I see in myself.

They’re always so angry

He never listens.

She takes the credit for everyone’s work.

It’s not that these things aren’t true necessarily. But the fact we notice these things is usually revealing.

We need to notice what we notice!

Like so many things, the healthier our self-awareness, the healthier we are. Or, if not healthy yet, we’re at least in a position where we’re aware enough to see that something needs to change or be done. 

So, why not try this for a week? Intentionally keep track of what you’re noticing. What do you see in others? What might what you see – and don’t see – reveal about yourself?

Insightful articles

1. Why feedback is never worthwhile

‘There’s a deep point here – that the best kind of praise focuses on how someone made you feel, not on evaluating their talent. After all, there’s something weirdly arrogant about complimenting another person for being a good writer, strategist, team player, and so on: who made you the judge of such things? But praising them for inspiring you, persuading you, or helping you grasp a complex issue, is a totally different matter.’
Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

2. How to read more

This is a good follow-on from my ‘First thoughts’ piece in last week’s email. ‘“How do you make time for that?” can almost always be answered with, “I make time for that.” Still, here are 5 things that have helped me read more…’
Austin Kleon, blog post

3. Are robots competing for your job?

Yes. But there’s probably no need to panic just yet.
Jill Lepore, The New Yorker

4. Believers without belief

Fascinating read. And an interesting look the damage done to understanding much of Christianity by the word ‘believe’.
Philip Goff, Times Literary Supplement

Book notes

The Universal Christ (Part three)

Richard Rohr

This week I’m going to conclude my notes on Richard Rohr’s latest book ‘The Universal Christ’. There are many more notes I could share, but three parts is probably enough!

My focus this week is on chapter five, which is titled ‘Love is the meaning’. Rohr proposes that love is the energy in and between everything. Literally.

And no one religion or group has a monopoly on love. Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor – love is love. 

How do we know when love is flowing though? It usually starts with small acts. Making an effort to reach out to someone who is alone is an example of love. Love reaches. Love includes. Love moves towards others.

Love, like water, doesn’t seek higher places. It always moves lower. And it is most powerfully displayed through the act of forgiveness. Nothing is as strong an indicator of love.

‘Love,’ says Rohr, ‘is a flow of energy willingly allowed and exchanged, without requiring payment in return.’

Christians talk of God’s love and of God loving humanity. But, according to Rohr, we can only come to know divine love through the school of human love. Paradoxically, it is hard to love humans well without God’s love working within us. 

Rohr suggests that parenting and family are the primary school for ‘unearthing the love instinct’. Love teaches us to give ourselves to imperfect things.

God can use anything to get the flow of love moving in our lives. Love for a cat or a dog is still love.

‘All human loves, passions, and preoccupations,’ says Rohr, ‘can prime the love pump, and only in time do most of us discover the first and final Source of those loves.’

It doesn’t matter what triggers the flow of love in our lives. In that moment, that thing is God for us. God is love, the Bible teaches. When we encounter love, in whatever form, we are encountering God.