Sunday, April 6, 2008

28. Don't try to convince anyone of anything.

Here is Susan with a wonderful meditation to close out our weekend:

When I first received this particular Maxim from Emily I thought, "Yes, this is a good one for me." When I am passionate about a topic, I definitely can become aggressive in conversation with those who disagree.

The second thing I thought of was a conversation I had with a Protestant co-worker who said that she had heard a story about Mother Teresa that made her respect her less. Now I have not verified this story, but as per my co-worker, Mother Teresa was caring for a Hindu woman. This woman wanted a husband and Mother Teresa introduced her to a Hindu Man whom she later married. My co-worker was concerned as to why Mother Teresa had not converted this woman to Christianity and why she hadn't introduced her to a Christian man. My response was that I felt it was better to try to convert someone by living a Christian life -- setting a good example, which in this case included treating this woman with respect for who she was. . .

In pondering this more, I realized that even the Orthodox organization IOCC helps people of all religious backgrounds who are experiencing difficulty around the world without overtly trying to convert them to Orthodox Christianity. From the IOCC website:

"Every day, IOCC helps people move from desperate circumstances to hope and economic self-sufficiency. In Russia, Romania, the Republic of Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, IOCC provides loans for small businesses, tractors and seeds for farmers, and empowering communities through capacity building with local organizations. In the Holy Land, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Ethiopia, IOCC provides job skills training and job creation, school building and repair, child nutrition programs, educational training, and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention." I know that IOCC is also active in the areas of the US struck by Hurricane Katrina.

About a week ago I was out with a friend (another co-worker.) She was talking about some discussions she had with people of other faiths. One of her comments was that sometimes the conversations would get heated, but in the end they realized they were really talking about the same or similar things, just using different words.

This struck me as another reason to keep strong opinions to myself. Sometimes I am so passionate about what I am saying that I do not really listen to what the other person is saying. Maybe they have been saying the same thing or similar things, but using different words. . . and regardless, I have not been respecting them for who they are and what they think.

As Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) In this Jesus is asking us to love as Christ has loved us, laying down His life not only for His friends, but even for His enemies. Many times I believe I treat people who do not agree with me on an issue or concept as my enemy. I need to learn to love them, respect them, listen to them.

In examining this maxim I gained a growing awareness that I should be more concerned with the state of my soul than with potential faults in others.

I am interested in reading your comments on this maxim, since in reading many of your posts, I have been humbled by the depth of your postings and comments.


Emily said...

Wow, Susan -- I can certainly sympathize. I've had discussions with people before, and later they'll tell me they feel bad about "our fight," and I think, "What fight?" I think the Armenian in me actually seeks out these kinds of arguments! And clearly, it is not always healthy to do so.

I also agree wholeheartedly with what Mother Teresa did -- and what you say later in your post. I find that the longer I am Orthodox, the less I feel the need to assert that Orthodoxy is the "best" religion. In fact, I find myself appreciating other religions more and more -- the devotion of Muslims who pray five times a day, or the Protestants whose love for God is so heartfelt, to whom Khouria Frederica referred in one of her wonderful podcasts.

I guess the lesson here is that you can learn something from everyone, if you have an open mind -- and it doesn't take away from the rich truths you've encountered in Orthodoxy. On the contrary, it says something else about the depth and breadth of God's love, which covers us all.

Carla said...

This one goes against the current of our culture, where there are a lot of different interest groups (religious ones included) trying to convince everyone else that "they" are the right ones and that everyone else is "wrong." It ends up polarizing rather than bringing us together. If we rather would seek to listen and understand one another, respecting and appreciating one another. If we all followed this maxim I would venture to say there would be no war. Something to really think about, for sure.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.