Thank you Mr. Vanier, for this entry in the CBC Massey Lecture Series. It had been on my shelf for a long while, and I skimmed and perused it from time to time. But it was not until my need to step away from leadership that I read it entirely.
Becoming Human is what I needed to be reminded of; reawakening of my soul, learning
to embrace my identity, and personifying the world around me. That was no longer natural to me, and Jean Vanier spoke directly to me. Of all the books that I encountered during my burnout, directly impacting the heart of my personhood and growth as a leader, this one had the deepest impact. I realized as I read that I had become, dare I say, less than human. It hurt to read, and I was blessed to do so.
So where do I begin with a review of the content that spoke like a prayer to my tired mind and dry soul?
I took too many notes at the back of the book, so I will simply outline the headings and give my favourite thoughts. I hope you glean from them, and take some time to refresh this week:
Loneliness… Can only be covered over, it can never actually go away. It is essential to our human nature. The loneliness that engenders depression manifests itself as chaos. To name something is to bring it out of chaos…loneliness and insecure community are reality. Accept it, move in it, become vulnerable in community.
Belonging… Do we belong out of insecurity or validation of self? Or is it a natural way of peace? Power is felt by belonging in a group of likeness, but it also breeds insecurity as we foster illusions of superiority to other groups. Trust…intuitive knowledge that we are safe in the hands of another and that we can be open and vulnerable. We deepen and grow as we live in openness and respect for others. Do we exclude others because of perceived weakness?
“To be human is to accept who we are, the mixture of strength and weakness.”
From Exclusion to Inclusion… Fear is at the root of all exclusion. Fear prevents us from being most human, because it prevents change. A free heart frees others, seeking ‘oneness’ with others and abandoning the need to control. Forego approval, and even feel rejection, to know the ‘scientia cordis’, truth that flows from experience above the need for approval. Those of us with power and social standing have subtle ways of hiding our inner handicaps; our difficulties in relationships, our inner darkness and violence, our depression and lack of self-confidence.
“When one loves with trust, one does not give things, one gives oneself and, so, calls forth communion.”
The Path to Freedom… To be free is to put justice, truth, and service to others over and above, otherwise we are slaves to self. There is more importance to truth and justice than our own drives. None of us can be satisfied with the limited and the finite; true freedom is seeing new truths in the chaos. Finding freedom from fear is part of learning our need for accompaniment at every stage of life; someone to walk with. It has the same root as ‘companion’, from the Latin cum pane, meaning “with bread”. The path to freedom is communion, to walk and share together, community that helps us come to life.
“With the death of our false self, we liberate the life of God in us and, in the words of Martin Buber, we allow God to flow through our hearts and our beings and thus to enter into our world.”
Forgiveness… Is it psychological or moral guilt you are experiencing? We can experience shame, which is built on external rejection by others, and guilt where we feel we have done wrong. Forgiveness is unilateral, it brings consequences, not simply acceptance. True forgiveness is a yearning for peace and unity. Power only has one direction: downward. Reconciliation is the completion of forgiveness, approaching one another, and our selves, acknowledging weakness, hurt, indifference, and fear.
“In order to enter the path of forgiveness, we have to lose our feelings of both superiority and inferiority. Each of us has hurt another, each of us has been hurt. And so we must own and take responsibility for our lives as well as for the future. We are all called upon to stand up and take our place freely in the world.”
Are you experiencing freedom in your work and relationships? This read helped me a lot, and I would highly recommend it. If you would like to chat about help in personal direction, let me know and we will set up a time to talk!