One of Gandhi’s most famous quotes is, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This pretty well wraps up the heart of true spirituality. True spirituality stops “waiting on the world to change,” recognizing that the world will not change until individual human beings change.
The reason this is not happening at the level it needs to is because we are each wired to think that others need to change more than we do.
Richard Rohr says that the cycle of violence actually begins with comparison. We compare, we compete, we conflict, we conspire, we condemn and we then crucify with impunity.
Comparing means that when I look at the world and think about what needs to be different, what I see is how much worse other people are than me. I think, “If they would just pull it together, this world would be a better place.”
The problem is that everyone is doing this at the same time.
I think you should change.
You think I should change.
Democrats think Republicans should change.
Republicans think Democrats should change.
Israelis think Palestinians should change.
Palestinians think Israelis should change.
Non-terrorists think terrorists should change, and terrorists think they are forced to be terrorists in order to get the rest of the world to change.
And the wheel goes ’round.
Everyone in the world longs for change, but we long for it in others. And since we are so powerless to make others change, we become increasingly frustrated, and then vocal, and then insistent, and then forceful, and eventually violent.
What is happening at the world level in terms of violence is happening constantly at the personal level in the heart of every human being on the planet.
You think your marriage would be better if your spouse would change, and your spouse thinks the exact same thing — how much better the marriage would be if you would change.
Most of us believe we are better than other people because we do not allow our cycles of violence to erupt into actual physical violence, failing to see that the same root of violence grows in each of us.
Yes, it’s good to pull the plant out before it blossoms into violence, but we must see that the root is exactly the same. Jesus understood this well.
Matthew 5:21-24 (ESV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus insightfully targets malice, contempt, and anger as the root of physical violence like murder.
Even in most of those that never commit actual murder, the malice, contempt, and anger from which murder grows are alive and well — and often actually nurtured and excused, as we point the finger at others.
Jesus then says that the answer to this is to be proactive, not in forcing the other to change, but in accepting personal responsibility and seeking reconciliation.
He does not say that we are to seek reconciliation if we remember we have something against someone else, but rather if we remember that someone else has something against us.
He puts each of us in the place of being the person who needs to change. That is exactly what Gandhi does with “Be the change.”
Interesting enough, Jesus says we are to do this even if we are at worship.
Love between each of us is therefore exalted as more important than religious ritual, as well it should be.
Love IS the expression of God in human life.