“Your idea of me is fabricated with materials you have borrowed from other people and from yourself. What you think of me depends on what you think of yourself. Perhaps you create your idea of me out of material that you would like to eliminate from your own idea of yourself. Perhaps your idea of me is a reflection of what other people think of you. Or perhaps what you think of me is simply what you think I think of you.
“Our ability to be sincere with ourselves, with God, and with other men[sic] is really proportionate to our capacity for sincere love. And the sincerity of our love depends in large measure upon our capacity to believe ourselves loved. Most of the moral and mental and even religious complexities of our time go back to our desperate fear that we are not and can never be really loved by anyone.”
– Thomas Merton
One of the reasons I am continually fascinated by Thomas Merton is that he seems to know me so well. Maybe he knows us all well.
If I am honest, I must admit that I have not always reflected upon why I respond to people as I do. I have not always reflected upon why I view people the way I do. But as I grow older, I spend more time in self-reflection… in contemplation. This helps me to see more clearly at 40 than I ever did at 20.
When we are young, we lack sincerity and humility. When we view negativity, frailty or flaw in another, we are convinced that it is all about them. They are the broken ones in need of repair and therapy. When I see the flaws of others, I feel better about myself. But why is that?
The irony is that the negative flaws and frustrations I see in others really are reflections of my own insufficiencies. If I am honest, there were many experiences in my life that caused me to feel unloved or unworthy. This brokenness is manifested in my understanding of others. I’ve known this to be true for others as I engage in pastoral counseling – I can see their problems! It has taken many years for me to realize that it has been my problem.
Do I believe myself loved? This is the real question. When we believe we are loved and when we believe we are who God desires us to be, it is amazing how we see people differently.