I like to read other people’s writings to keep me thinking about things. People offer different perspectives than I sometimes see. And sometimes people see things the way I do and that affirms me. One of the people I like to follow is Richard Rohr. Rohr is about the age I am, although he has taken a different track through life. Rohr is a life-long Catholic and I have just dabbled in things Catholic. He is a Franciscan friar and I have tried to do life in a more typical way.
In a recent article Rohr was talking about perspective. His experience is much like mine. When we speak, we realize we don’t know how people “hear” us. Most of the time I am pretty clear about what I said. I know what I tried to emphasize and often am quite explicit what I hope people learn. But that guarantees nothing.
We all have perspective and we bring our perspective to all that we see and hear. Perspective is our way of looking at the world. We learn our perspective from our parents and friends. Perspective is shaped by our culture. Most of the time our perspective is implicit---we have one without thinking about it. Since this is true, we assume perspective is “just the way things are.” In other words whatever we see as normal is our perspective.
Usually, we are not even aware of perspective until something jolts us into awareness. One typical way this happens is experiencing a crisis. Suddenly, the way we see things---the way we expect things to happen---is thrown into chaos. We may even say something like, “I didn’t see that coming.”
Another thing that will reveal perspective is when we find ourselves in the midst of diversity. If we are with people who are not like us, we realize there may be a relativity to the way we see things. The other person might say something quite differently. Things like racism and sexism are good examples of perspectives and which get challenged when we wander into diversity.
This serves as the backdrop to the point Rohr wants to make when he talks about how people respond to something he says. He uses the example of the homily in Mass. After the service some people talk about how edified they were by his words. Other folks are not moved at all by what he says. In this case his words were the same words. But how folks heard, interpreted and commented on his words can be different. I like the way Rohr frames it.
Some people take things that are said and do positive things with them. Other folks can take the same things and be critical or be negative. I have talked about people as blessors or cursors---some seem natural to bring blessings to any situation and others managed to curse any endeavor. Another way I talked about folks is to describe some as confirmers and others as complainers.
I like how Rohr ties this in with maturity. And I like the imagery that he uses. Rohr observes: “Mature people can make lemonade out of lemons. Immature people can turn the sweetest lemonade tart and sour.” This is such an effective image because I can almost sense my mouth tasting the two kinds of lemonade. I would like to build on this image Rohr employs.
Let’s assume people are like the lemons. And let’s understand maturity and immaturity to be two different kinds of perspective. Mature people can make lemonade out of the lemons. I understand Rohr to say that mature people---I am tempted to say spiritually mature people---can go into any situation and make it better. These are the people who bring love to a situation. They are peacemakers and reconcilers. They are the healers in our midst, not the ones who hurt. They are conduits of grace and mercy. Their lemonade is sweet.
And of course, there are the others folks---the immature. They are capable of turning a good situation sour. They can make a mess of whatever they encounter---whatever they do. They have a knack of making things worse instead of better. They seem to be negative folks. They are quick to complain and are very capable of blame. It is never their fault; others are usually the dingies! They always cause reaction---sour and tart are major reactions!
I am convinced we have choice. We can choose our perspective. What’s more, we can choose to grow and mature. Even if we happen to be one of those who make things sour and tart, we can change. A perspective is not forever. We can become aware of how we usually look at things---what our “natural” tendency or perspective is---and change if we want to be different.
I would like to be a lemonade kind of guy. Spiritually this means I want to know how to bless, to heal, to help and to make peace. If enough of us do this, we can change the world. And if even more can join God in the process, we can help bring the Kingdom!