Original Post Date: November 10, 2017
I’m watching this week’s episode of Sarah Silverman’s new show “I Love You America.” Each week she invites someone on her show who tries to bridge gaps in our country or the world – sometimes they are politically aligned with her, sometimes they are specifically not politically aligned with her or are different in some way and they just get to know each other and find common ground.
This week there was a beautiful exchange between her and a priest who leads “the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.” I liked it so much I paused and rewinded so I could capture the wording exactly.
– Rev. Gregory Boyle: “Imagine a Circle of Compassion, and then imagine nobody’s standing outside that Circle. And so we’re all called I think to dismantle the barriers that exclude.”
– Sarah Silverman: “We have to include the excluders.”
– Rev. Gregory Boyle: “Exactly, and part of it is coming to terms and being friends with your own brokenness and your own wound. And because if you aren’t, if you’re a stranger to your own wound, then you’re going to be tempted to despise the wounded.”
Not one of us is without wounds. Seriously. None of us have led perfect lives, no matter what we could like to believe or what we would like to have others believe. There is not a single person in the world who hasn’t felt pain in some way. We can sit here and compare pain, but ultimately that is an exercise in futility, because pain isn’t like marbles – you can’t clearly set specific units next to each other and measure them or count them up and compare. People feel pain and experience pain very differently. What is a scratch to you might be a gushing wound to me. What is a punch to you might be a light touch to me. That is one good reason why open communication with each other is so important (“hey, is this okay?” “hey, how are you doing?” “hey, I know you said this was alright but you are looking kind of stressed right now, do you still want to do this? It’s okay to stop or say No.” “hey, I thought I was cool with this, but I’m not, so I’m going to go.” “hey, I love you – I just wanted to say that.”)
Being wounded is a part of life. It doesn’t make you weak or broken or stupid or wrong – it just means that you are a living, breathing being who is engaged with the world. Being wounded means that you are involved in the game… and that is part of living. It is what we do with the wounds, just like what we do with anything else in life (our strengths, our talents, our challenges, our opportunities, etc.) that matters.
When I was a kid I read a lot of mythology. A LOT. It was my jam. One of my favorite things that I read was that the gods would intentionally give some people some wounds so that they knew what pain felt like and could then go out and help others. These wounds – they weren’t too much for these chosen people to handle, but they were enough for them to really get it. They had to be significant, they had to be really felt or else the lesson wouldn’t hold and the gift wouldn’t be bestowed upon the person. From that point forward I saw my epilepsy as a gift and myself as selected for something. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it had to be good, and I was here for a reason. And whatever it was, it was going to be helpful.
Everyone has wounds, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Wounds, left untended to can cause great pain. But wounds that are tended to can build up very strong skin. When someone is a jerk to you, remember, that person may be struggling with some stuff in their life. And remember that somewhere you too may be struggling… and you might have the capacity to be a jerk sometimes. But just because someone is a jerk sometimes – maybe even most of the time – doesn’t mean that they don’t also hold the potential to be wonderful and loving and kind. Sometimes its that missed/unrealized potential that is so frustrating. But pain, in whatever form it exists, can be a real bear.
Kindness and empathy can go a long way. Extend that to your neighbor because they deserve it — heck, extend it to them because YOU deserve it. Extend it because you want to see more of that in the world and you are willing to take the first step. It’s chemistry – changing one thing changes the whole thing. We might as well change it with love and kindness.