In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr wrote, “If you are walking around…saying in your heart, ‘What an idiot he is,’ you are living out of death, not life.” (page 81). That book was published in 1999 so Richard could not have known that I would be reading his book during the pandemic of 2020 and would be convicted by his words.
During the past two months, I have been perfecting my look that conveys the message, “What an idiot you are,” a look I give to people who are not social distancing or practicing other safety measures. And there is Richard Rohr, calling me out.
If Richard is correct, then I am living out of death, not life. Living out of life means to be loving—and thinking of others as idiots is not very loving.
Last year, in her book Surprised by Fire, Martina Lehane Sheehan introduced me to the phrase, If you spot it, you got it—the idea that every time I see some fault or character flaw in another, I am reminded that I probably recognize it in another because it is also in me. And if it is something I am criticizing, it is probably a character trait I don’t like in myself.
This idea is not new to me; I learned it when I lived in l’Arche.
Community living was the perfect environment to see flaws and faults in others.
In l’Arche, we were invited to reflect upon the idea that what I am criticizing in someone else often has as much to do with me as with the other person, and when I find myself criticizing or judging someone else, I need to turn the mirror toward myself to see what in me recognized a flaw in another.
If you spot it, you got it is a catchy way to capture this truth.
My reflection on the writings of Richard Rohr and Martina Lehane Sheehan reminded me of something Henri Nouwen wrote about l’Arche and living in the house of love or the house of fear.
The invitation is always to become more loving, and this time of isolation is giving me the space to look at instances when I am not loving and when I am living out of fear or scarcity (instead of trust and abundance).
Sometimes living out of fear is easy to see—like the shopping panic at the beginning of the pandemic. Lots of people were afraid of running out of all kinds of things.
Other times, though, living out of fear or scarcity is not as obvious.
My theme for Lent was Be Holy, and my prayer was, Turn me toward you, God. My question was, Am I limiting God by holding onto what feels safe?
These days and weeks of isolation have turned into an extended Lenten reflection, a sort of mini-retreat, where God keeps showing me how I turn away from God when I am not loving and how I limit God when I am fearful.