Tuesday, February 03, 2004


One of the things I'm learning in CPE is about the intrinsic nature of our interrelatedness. We think compassion is compassion and that in itself it is a good thing. I agree. But when we look closely at what sparks our compassion, I'm finding that it may have a whole lot more to do with us than we know. When I was concerned about Russ's inability to see the face of God (he saw a "blank spot" and couldn't imagine what the face of God would look like if God were pleased with him), I agonized over not wanting to "leave Russ in that place." I wanted so much for him to feel belovedness. I wanted, for him and for God, to do something to open up that flow of giving and receiving love. As I got closer to those feelings in my individual supervision time, I discovered that what hurt me so much about Russ's situation is that one of my biggest fears is being abandoned by God. I can't fathom how I could have existed without God--and God's absence in my life is unthinkable to me. Precisely because it is unthinkable to me, I was alarmed when I heard it in Russ's story, and I wanted to change it. To protect him, or me?

Similarly, in another CPE time, I wanted to protect Nathan from himself. He's only 25, a quirky seminary student from a Disciples of Christ school. He dresses a bit like he's come out of the movie Grease and has a kind of innocence about him. He's the youngest of five and is used to being treated like that. I fall naturally into the mothering role. During his verbatim, he was very hard on himself about a few typos. I felt his self-criticism was harsh and found myself dwelling on it, wanting somehow to gently suggest he stop putting himself down, like I would do with my own sons. But as I looked closer at myself and my reactions, I discovered that what sparked my feeling is really my own struggle with my own internal critic. I've learned some difficult lessons about how to be kind to myself, how to let myself be human (imperfections and all), and how to motivate myself without harsh criticism. His sharpness with himself triggered the old feelings in me. I do care about him and about Russ, and I do wish them both belovedness and peace. But it's odd and strange and a bit spooky that the point at which I was motivated to reach out to them had more to do with me than them.


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