Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed my inner fuse growing shorter.
The riots, the politics, the covid. The lack of travel and human contact simply intensifies the burn, like a magnifying glass on a sunny day.
Of course ranting, cursing, and exploding aren’t the most healthful or helpful of things. The wake of the horrific wildfires symbolizes the devastation of simply burning out of control, emotionally as well as physically.
I recently re-read a remarkable book that’s helping me lengthen instead of shorten my fuse. It’s Pierre Pradervand’s The Gentle Art of Blessing: A Simple Practice That Will Transform You and Your World.
His premise is simple. When someone mistreats you, bless them. It started for him when he was unjustly fired from his job. After living with anger toward his former employer, he decided such negativity was only hurting himself. He began developing the difficult habit of blessing the people who terminated him, wishing them the very best in all things.
His book details the fruit born in developing this life-long (and it does take a life time of work) spiritual discipline. Expressing concretely your love for your enemy makes you healthier while it may deescalate hostility, sometimes in semi-miraculous ways.
The one thing that struck me in this re-reading was his undercutting the tendency I’m good at: making snap decisions about others.
“It is impossible to bless and judge…The more we learn to bless unconditionally, the less we judge. It is an amazing inner experience. We simply let others be.” (pages 77, 79)
Isn’t judging others the chief cause of our anger? And, really, who are we to slam the gavel down so firmly? We’re frail, biased creatures reacting to words and actions of equally frail, biased creatures. Jesus, as always, was right. “Don’t judge so you won’t be judged.”
Blessing doesn’t mean not protesting. Nothing should interfere with sincere stands for justice in the face of the violence and racism we’ve seen. But it does mean not to demonize and hurt those you see on the other side. Just as you can’t bless and judge at the same time, neither can you love and curse.
Personally, in this writing, I haven’t mentioned the one person who accelerates the burning of my fuse faster than anyone.
Recently I’d started a couple of blogs with him as the subject, but scrapped them. They were just too negative. As I read and re-read them, I simply felt empty afterward. Pouring accelerant on the fuse and waiting for the bang isn’t healthy.
From now on, our president is my personal spiritual project. Whenever I read a tweet from him or an article about him, I’m going to slow down my pulse. I’ll intentionally lift up a prayer on his behalf. I’ll wish him health, happiness, and a sense of personal fulfillment. I’ll pray for his wisdom, judgment, and compassion. I’ll pray that the decisions he makes will promote the common good in ways beyond my understanding. I’ll pray for a deepening of his faith and a growth in his understanding and embodying bedrock Christian values.
This won’t necessarily make him a better person. It will make me better, though. And, in the end, I can only manage my own little station in life.
Maybe this was what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Treat people in the same way you want them to treat you.”