I always found amusing the age-old monkeys image where each monkey covers its eyes, ears or mouth. It was almost as if to my childish mind, that some monkeys were smarter if they kept their opinions and strategies to themselves. They just might live longer, perhaps even get ahead of the troop. I have spent many years being an observer. It means that much time was spent on the sidelines, maybe even more than actually engaging in the game of life. But it is not enough to observe. Life is for living.
Observing life from the back of the room is advantageous to a point. Many of us would do it simply to steer clear of criticism or social aggravation; others of us would choose to not expose our own ignorance by keeping our mouth shut and our hands off the table. Some of us would even go so far as to let others talk long enough until they have enough words upon which to choke themselves. I have been at all three stations at least once in my life. A shrewd and critical surveyor of the characters around me. But it bears repeating: life is decidedly for living.
In the last several years I have noticed a willingness to connect with people… People who generally didn’t get me or otherwise were difficult to handle. You know the ones, those people who aren’t like you, the not “my kind of people” people. But we do ourselves and society at large a great disservice by harboring distrust to the point of seclusion. We stunt our own growth. And we limit the collective growth of humanity.
One of my favorite Biblical verses is James 5:16, “Confess your sins one to another…”. In broad strokes, I take the verse to mean that we should lead open and compassionate lives, to the enrichment of each other. Confessing sins, so to speak, is another way of being real and honest about who we are, warts and all. If you can forgive me my errors, I can forgive you yours. And if I can’t handle yours, I’m either vainly proud, unrealistic, or both. This verse, to me, goes in tandem with another more easily (even haphazardly) slung-about maxim: “Judge not, lest you be judged.” The clarification of this latter verse is for another day, let it be enough here to compliment the former.
The soul who sits back in observation is seduced into hiding, maybe believing it is better than some of the souls in its company. Such a temptation leads to false impressions of superiority, or worse, inferiority. Verily, we should not think more highly or lowly of ourselves than we are, for this leads to hiding, observing. But when we connect with one another, when we observe and engage, we remove vanity, prejudices and false pretenses. We cannot point the finger outward for too long before recognizing we must point the finger inward as well. We may be different on some things from those around us, but we must also recognize we are so very much the same. Self-preservation is no longer that desperate and overbearing need any longer. We are free, for we know the truth. And this makes us all the healthier.