There is a natural human tendency to compare ourselves to others, and to feel good if the comparison is in our favor. If my neighbor gets sick and I am healthy, I may feel lucky in that comparison. When another country is worse off with violence or the pandemic than my country, some part of me feels better—maybe relieved, maybe even superior. “I’m doing OK, because I’m not as bad off as that other person (or nation).”
This is a natural human tendency, but it is one that I want to discourage.
The other natural human tendency is for compassion and mutuality, and it comes from a different place within us. Not the shallow ego part of ourselves, but the loving heart, the spirit, the divine within. This part says that I am not better than anyone else…just different. This part says that I cannot fully enjoy my health while so many are sick and dying in India. This part says that I am not fully safe when missiles are destroying homes and lives in Gaza.
The Unitarian Universalist principle that we affirm is that we are interconnected. Martin Luther King called it a “network of mutuality.” In anti-racist work, we name this collective liberation—that none of us are free until all of us are free. It’s true everywhere. I am better off when my family and my neighbors are doing well in mind, body, and spirit. White people are better off in a society where Black, Indigenous, People of Color enjoy equality and dignity. The United States is healthier, safer, more prosperous when the pandemic is contained in India and when the fighting stops in Gaza.
When we engage our natural human tendency for empathy and connection, and discourage our tendency for feeling better when others are doing worse, we are in harmony with the divine.
Spirit of Life and Love within me, beyond me, between you and me, be here now.
Remind me that all are worthy. That suffering of others is always my concern. Remind me that we are all connected.
May love and compassion prevail. My selfishness recede.
In the name and faith of all who hear these words, may it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
May 20, 2021