Do I understand others?

Lent is a great time to reflect. We often look at how we are doing in our own spiritual life and how best we might be able to improve ourselves and our relationship with Christ. Noble goals and efforts. My own 2019 Lenten season started out with a slightly different bent than in previous years. I always felt that I was in the driving seat as to what is on my “Lenten Bucket List” for the year. As a child, it might have been chocolate, which made Easter Sunday all the sweeter. (Excuse the pun). In adulthood, I have tried to focus on issues which are character flaws, or a propensity to sin or deviate from the Word in some way or others. This year was different.

Instead of looking inward, which has been my wont in the past; I am being drawn to look at something different? How others see me, and my actions in the world? The cause and effect of my work in the Church, and my work as a manager in a retreat ministry setting? I must admit, after decades of managing projects and people I have often relied on others being focused on the same goals, creating a good work ethic and a positive (but truth filled) atmosphere as being enough. Now I am beginning to see that perhaps it is not.

We all look for affirmation that our work in appreciated and understood, however, we sometimes don’t do that second “mirror check” to see if the traffic is still following us before we make the maneuver into the next lane. There may be someone in our blind spot who is not in the place we expected them to be.

While it can be simpler just to tell someone whether they are wrong, and not following the instructions, directions or guidance we give them, it may not be enough. Perhaps there have been years of practice in place which are now put into question. Maybe some of the practices are there for a reason. And even if they are not, we should respect them for what they were at the time.

So, Lent this year I take a serious gaze into the lives of others around me; to see how I might appear to them if I was on the receiving end of my behavior, not just trying to correct what I think might need fixing.

St. Theresa of Avilia, the great mystic noted that God is present “in the pots and pans” of our lives, not just the special prayer times. It is there we often have the most encounters with others, so lets ask ourselves the question of how are we doing from the perspective of those around us. How do others see us? Am I truly understanding? Or only understanding what we want?

We might have a very different response than our own answer to this question.



Understanding is not the reasoning of the mind,
Which only leads to conflict and judgment;
taking up roots in the heart,
much firmer than those of scientific or man-made rationality.

Over time, these become immovable mountains,
fixed in place, so others have to go round them,
Or recognize, “do you see that mountain up ahead?”

Let my understanding become of the heart.

Where positions and events are just that.
Waypoints on a soul’s journey through life.

Copyright 2019 Reflection, Poem and Photography by Michael J. Cunningham O.F.S.

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