To Cheat Oneself Out Of Love

See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 22 (year B), October 7, 2012
“against hardness of heart”

Before I became cripplingly challenged by high school math I hadn’t noticed that students in my high school were tracked into vocational streams – those going to college rarely had classes with those slated for going into a trade. After struggling beyond my level of competency, I was put into a remedial algebra class with the ‘hoods’, that is, students who generally wore black clothes, faux-leather jackets, short skirts, heavy eye-makeup, teased hair, and who always seemed to me a bit threatening.

I wore black too, but my artistic black represented a different expression of identity than ‘hoody’ black. One of my teachers used to call out to me in the hall while classes were changing, “Brighter colors, Suzanne!” I was nervous among these other slow math students. But not for long. These kids were sweet, welcoming, interesting, and, yes, smart, although challenged in math like me, bored and resistant to learning as I was. I felt loved by the ‘hoods’ and I loved them and couldn’t figure out why we hadn’t been friends all along. I realized I’d been carrying around a really stupid prejudice I hadn’t even known I had. The friendship landscape opened up, and so did my heart.

I’ve caught myself in scores of prejudices since, both elevating people above some imaginary status line and dismissing others below it and with much more serious implications than what style of black I’m wearing. I love the security of my prejudices. Hardness of heart keeps me perversely organized. But can I really count on such organization while following a man who said, “the last shall be first”?

Hardness of heart keeps me safe in my place. But that’s another irritant of Christianity. Do you really have a ‘place’ when you follow the man who said, “foxes have holes and birds have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head?” If Christians have a ‘place’ it must be on the prophetic margins of discomfort in empathy with the marginalized.

And I know that my worst prejudices are still the ones I don’t know I have, still blinding me to truth, still hardening my heart in embarrassing ways for a supposedly open-hearted liberal striving for universal compassion. HA!

But broken prejudices, however humiliating, have always opened me to new people and ideas, and a wider sense of compassion, understanding, and wisdom. Kierkegaard said, “To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception. It is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or eternity.”

Every small hardness of heart cheats me of the love within which I was born to thrive. And surely love is more desirable than temporal security or status.


One Response to “To Cheat Oneself Out Of Love”

  1. Sylvia Corrigan Says:

    With my church, Christ and Holy Trinity, in Connecticut, I am reading a wonderful book, written by a Jesuit priest, Gregory Boyle. It is called “Tatoos on the Heart.” Father Boyle, or “G,” as many call him, ministers to a Latino community in Los Angeles. The love that he has found there in the barrio is not unlike what you have described in your blog…this book is a must read for anyone with a heart!

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