Friday, January 27, 2012

Who is My Brother's Keeper?

It's an age old philosophical question, am I responsible for you? And in the words of a sweet and searching friend, to what extent and where does it end? At the moment she posed this query to me, I answered in earnest, I don't know but I let God/Love lead the way.

Responsibility can tax us but at the same time it deepens us in the knowledge of love and God. This in turn enhances our joy and gives meaning to our lives. In order to begin to answer this question, I have to begin with the Word from the Word made flesh Himself. In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus expands the meaning of love your neighbor as yourself query by telling a story in a parable. A man is robbed and beaten and left for dead. Two passersby take no notice. It is only the Samaritan who is moved with pity that follows through with action and takes cares of the robbed and wounded person found on the road.

We are responsible for each other, even though the world tells us we are not. The world tells us we are island responsible for our own destiny. This flies in the face of a loving God and is a lie. For we are born of another human being. Our mother's and father's choices impact us in and out of the womb and it continues from there. Our action and inaction impacts others and viceversa. It is something I fail at daily, but numbing my conscience or rationalizing is a graver sin.

There are so many examples in my life where I have failed people and where people have failed me. This past Christmas God made me focus on my own needs for a change, and two critical examples changed my life. First, a longer term friend of mine a few years ago decided to join an order and discern if becoming a sister was in fact what God was calling her to. She was a kind and loyal friend but she like me is human. I forgot this simple truth and assumed she was more trustworthy and kinder than most including me. During one particular Christmas where I had grown closer to her and relied on her more, she had other focuses and desires. Her lack of compassion devastated me. The details of what transpired are not important, but the theme and talk we eventually had led to the truth that came out of her mouth…her reality at the time...I am not responsible for you.

In essence she was saying I am not my sister’s keeper. This hurt me and thru my tears she insisted we could remain friends even though I wanted to let it go at this point. I tried to rationalize my hurt feelings away and for many reasons I acquiesced to her request to remain friends. I lied to myself and to her. My will chose to give it a go but my heart remained wounded, and in order to protect myself I was guarded in our conversations and communications. This continued for a couple of years while she was a novice out of state.

Then my acting program came this past summer, and I became more aware of how we impact each other. I also found freedom in living truthfully. As difficult as I knew it would be and knowing that the outcome was likely not going to be what I hoped it would be, I decided to be honest with my friend.

Unfortunately, my two years of not being honest had taken a toll on her. She told me she sensed I was not happy and was worried. Yet she never brought it up. I requested we at least speak on the phone but she insisted we keep things via email. In a sense I think she was trying to have God be her total focus and rightly so, and she felt in order to do that she had to let go of past connections. My choice to be honest may have allowed her to finally make the break she felt she needed to. She chose to let me go. Also, I knew she could no longer stand the pain and broke of all connections including facebook. Ironically, it may have been the most compassionate thing she could do at the time. I have faith our interrupted conversation will resume again one day.

The second pivotal point for me is also paradoxical. Juxtaposed to my prior example, this friend was very new, only a few weeks old. And on the flip side, this friend showed me compassion and a level of care I can honestly say I have never experienced. This touched me and made me cry for quite different reasons. In my weakest moment leading up to sharing with this friend, I had turned to God. This process had me get in touch with much deeper truths about myself and also created a very deep bond with my new friend in a very short period of time. He conversely knew about compassion and felt that we were responsible for each other. He communicated as much.

We both had intentions of being and remaining friends but then we met. Meeting was a natural extension of the compassion and care we had exhibited toward each other, but I also knew it would hasten the end of a deeply caring and involved friendship. I knew this because we were the complementary sex; he was a man and I was a woman.

The age difference was not large enough to circumvent the natural dance that happened between us despite our willed and conscious intentions. That dance was so strong that I immediately knew our compassionate friendship would in the end be very temporary. And I called it by name as I flew back home. We struggled to remain friends and stay connected. I tried to be real about the change and I knew it was either going to be progress naturally or end, and yet I longed for that compassionate friend.

My honesty about the change had him slowly disconnect from being a compassionate friend. It was painful knowing and accepting that he willfully chose to stop caring. Yet he didn't want to completely let go and wanted to have a distant connection. I thought we could give it a go but then found I could not. It was too painful for me this time. Ironically, I let him go and perhaps it was the most compassionate thing I could do at the time. Here too, I have faith our interrupted conversation will resume again one day.

In the beginning and endings of all our connections, whether they are friendships, a mate, a child or a stranger, we are called to the same. We are called to be responsible. And being responsible is sometimes painful and sometimes beyond what we can bear. At times like this all we need to remember Jesus. He took all the responsibility and it was extremely painful! However, because of this we are promised God's grace and hence we can be more responsible than we think we can be.

We are called to be responsible for each other's physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being. And to answer the initial query of my friend now…where does this end? It never ends. Because it isn't up to us…it’s up to God and his grace. Although we can't control other's choices such as the choice to interrupt the conversation or the level of care they allow themselves to feel and show, we can continue to pray for them. We can continue the divine conversation.

We can ask our whole community here on earth and in heaven to intercede for their well-being. We can keep carrying our prayers and them in our hearts right into the next world. May God grant us the grace moment to moment in this life so we can know how and when to act. May He gracefully correct our missteps and give us courage to joyfully bear the pain. So that then, in every breath we take, we can answer with confidence, "I am my brother's keeper!"


Post a Comment