By Cory Lockhart
The original title of this essay was “Domination, Dismissal, and Dehumanization.” I decided that might feel too intimidating for an essay title, but I’m still going to share a few reflections on these things.
We live in a culture of domination, dismissal, and dehumanization. Regardless of our religion, political or ideological leanings, race, age, or other qualities, most of us fall into these patterns at some point or another because we are immersed in them. We don’t have to look too far in our relationships, communities, country, world to see these playing out all around us. If we’re in a position of privilege, we exert our power in ways that limit someone else’s, consciously and unconsciously. We write off someone we disagree with because they’re clearly wrong and therefore not worth our attention. Hmpf! We call a politician or a candidate a derogatory name because it makes us feel superior. All of these things separate us from each other.
If you’re like me, you may talk the good talk about compassion and love and then forget or choose not to extend compassion and love to the “bad” people, the ones we see doing harm. Doesn’t doing so let them off the hook?
Yesterday’s gospel reading at church was the one about loving our neighbors as ourselves. Regardless of your spiritual tradition, it’s likely that this idea of unconditional love is a part of your belief system. But how do we do it? And why?
We repeat what we don’t repair.
If I wish to live in a world in which power-with, rather than power-over, is the norm, I practice it now.
If I wish to live in a world in which I am seen and heard and so is everyone else, I practice it now.
If I wish to live in a world in which respect is the norm, I practice it now.
If I don’t practice them now, I perpetuate the very systems I wish to interrupt and change, just maybe with people in leadership with whom I align myself more.
Acknowledging someone’s humanity doesn’t mean I accept the harm that they’re doing. It does mean that I can see that person as more than the harm they’re doing. I’ll still work to end the harm, but I’ll also live in the possibility that the person can change. It doesn’t mean I stay in relationship with the person. I can still have boundaries. I can wish them well from afar, and when I say “well,” I mean that their needs are truly met on a deep level, so deeply that they won’t continue to do harm. Their well-being, their healing, brings me and you and everyone else closer to collective our well-being. 2020 has shown us how much we need to heal.
The goal is to heal me and you and everybody else. Patching the fabric of humanity. Mending the tears. Stitch by tiny stitch. Practice by tiny practice. Practicing love toward my neighbor as myself. Remembering that everyone is my neighbor. Practicing until these acts are the ones we automatically repeat and not the acts of domination, dismissal, and dehumanization. With every action a new stitch in the tapestry of interconnection. Slowly. Steadily. Stepping back every so often to see the bigger picture, the progress we’ve made. Bringing the cloth close again to continue the work. Stitch. Stitch. Stitch.
What patterns of harm-doing in our world do you see reflected in your own actions?
What is one practice that helps you or could help you to interrupt the pattern?
What do you think would change as a result of your “mending”?
The above reflection is written by Cory Lockhart, a 2016 Angeline Award recipient, which is awarded by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville to a woman who reflects the spirit and Charism (special gift) of Saint Angela Merici, foundress of the Ursuline Sisters. Cory is a teacher, artist, writer, public speaker, and peacemaker. She facilitates classes and workshops for teens and adults on living and communicating with compassion and speaks to groups about the experiences and ideas that have shaped her. She believes in the fundamental dignity of every person and the interconnectedness of all people and Creation. She does her best to practice what she preaches, often stumbling along the path, but always getting back up and continuing forward. To learn more about Cory and her work, visit corylockhart.com