During the winter holidays each year I choose a short saying that will be the focus of my meditation practice for the upcoming year, a bit of a twist on the idea of a new year's resolution. Every year I have found a great deal of meaning and depth in these simple sayings, from 'All life is one life' to 'Wherever you go, there you are.' This year I chose a sentence that is often repeated in the Pagan community: Thou art god/dess. (In other words, 'Thou art god' or 'Thou art goddess,' depending on which is appropriate.)
To me, this saying reminds me that each and every person I meet is a reflection of the divine in the world. That notion can be especially hard to embrace when people behave badly and are selfish, cruel, and hateful. I've seen a lot of awful behavior lately in the wake of events focusing around bigotry related to race, transgender identity, and homosexuality. And of course, there's all the nasty rhetoric now that the 2016 presidential campaigns are underway.
It's apparent to me that many people believe that God, or the divine, or whatever you call that great Source, is reflected only in people who are exactly like them in mindset, values, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion...in other words, they're not able to value anyone who doesn't 'look' just like them.
The Maya have a saying: You are my other self. It's easy to see your 'other self' if it feels like you're looking in a mirror. It's not so easy to see it in someone who doesn't look like you, or whose family isn't organized like yours, or who doesn't support your favorite political candidates or attend the same kind of church you do.
But the point isn't that it should be easy. The point is that it's hard. All the great spiritual teachers have said pretty much the same thing: Have compassion for everyone, even those you can't stand, especially those you can't stand.
So I find myself watching the news, and scrolling through my Facebook feed, and doing my best to see the divine in the people in the KKK uniforms. In the people from the Westboro Baptist Church. In the people who make hateful racist comments about the President and say he should be impeached, or worse, lynched. In the cops who shoot unarmed black kids and the people who bomb churches while the people inside are praying. In the people who make threats against the lives of anyone who doesn't meet their criteria for religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any number of other subjects.
And I cry.
How am I supposed to see the divine in something so hateful? So cruel? So selfish?
But I'll keep doing my best. Because even the most hateful, cruel, selfish person is still a human being. They still have a heart under there, somewhere. And maybe if I can see the divine in them, they'll recognize that spark in themselves, and it will change them. Maybe.