**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 5, No. 4 April/May 2003
The title of the article in a church magazine caught my attention. “Jesus would cry,” it read. Yes, I imagine Jesus would cry about a lot of things in our world today.
The article wasn’t quite what I anticipated. Instead of sympathizing with his 5-year-old’s tears, the author used them to point out how we all we project our feelings on Jesus. His point was that we tend to be self-centered and think that our own desires, the things we cry about, are also what Jesus cares about.
The scenario was familiar not only to parents of 5-year-olds but to parents and caregivers of persons with autism spectrum disorders of any age. Someone in the family wanted the TV off. That person just hit the off button. However, that job of turning off the TV had become the domain of a certain other family member (a 5-year-old, in his case) and it simply upset his world order for anyone else to turn that TV off.
Sometimes I reflect after similar silly battles as to who is really the more self-centered. Am I, as the supposedly responsible adult, any less selfish (“autistic?!”) if I knowingly take control of something that I know gives pleasure and order to someone else’s life? Am I really teaching unselfishness by asserting my control over the other person?
There may be times and reasons to assert control, especially if it involves the safety and well-being of others. But it’s easy to slip over into engaging in the battle just because I know I can win.
I think the assumption on the part of the author of the article (and also, I might add, many other religious folk) is that people are basically bad, “sinful,” to put it in religious language. Therefore, the way to deal with their behavior is to clamp down early and often, using superior power and authority to “make them obey” or enforce “the rules.”
I think the assumption on the part of the author of the article (and also, I might add, many other religious folk) is that people are basically bad, “sinful,” to put it in religious language. Therefore, the way to deal with their behavior is to clamp down early and often, using superior power and authority to “make them obey” or enforce the rules.
I believe that it is this kind of assumption, taken to extremes, that led to the latest war our country waged with Iraq. We saw some evil on the part of those who we deemed as “below us” or at least not as powerful. So our government used its superior power to take control.
The problem is that people are never as totally evil as we portray our enemies. Even now, the inspectors look in vain for all of those “weapons of mass destruction” when everyone knows it is the United States that has more of them than anyone else.
What would happen if we gave others the benefit of the same assumption that we secretly make about ourselves? Rather than start with the assumption that the other person is sinful, how about the assumption that at the core there is some goodness? After all, God created all of humanity in the image of God. Might we not assume that there is some of the goodness of God in everyone, even those we see doing evil things?
Most people, at their very core, act to preserve their own lives. They act in the interest of their own safety and well-being. They seek to be loved. John McGee, with his philosophy of “Gentle Teaching” (https://companionresources.org/Companionship/Gentleness ) has reminded us that this is the case even for persons with profound disabilities, severe mental illness, or years of hardening in a prison cell. He suggests that rather than worrying about restraining the sinful impulse or even seeking to modify the behavior of another person, that we simply show unconditional love and work hard to help the other person feel safe and loved in our presence.
Now perhaps we can get carried away by taking either the assumption of total depravity or the inherent goodness of a person to the extreme. However, the life of Jesus shows us that at the very core, God’s way is to recognize the evil, call it what it is, but still respond to it with love.
If the response to selfishness is simply to meet it with our own brand of self-centeredness, then our results will always be counterproductive. I have seen that illustrated vividly with persons with autism. However, if I can patiently work with the other person, always examining my own motives and how I am perceived by the other, then the love and esteem for him or her can come through.
That, in turn, gives opportunity for that wonderful glimpse of glory when some day, the person you thought didn’t have any capacity for reaching out, somehow passes that love back to you!
Let us live in that hope of glory!
You can read the article referred to in the opening paragraph by going to the following link: http://www.themennonite.org/pdf/magazine_pdf_50.pdf (p. 11). This link illustrates some practical tools that are becoming even more widely used on the Internet today. The overarching term you should be aware of is PDF, which stands for Personal Document Format. There is a free tool available from Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) which allows anyone with any kind of computer to read the same document as long as it is a PDF file. Formerly called the Acrobat Reader, it is now available in version 6.0 as simply the Adobe Reader.
The ability to create these kind of files that anyone can read used to be totally in the hands of those who shelled out the big bucks for the full version of Adobe Acrobat. However, with version 6, Adobe has lowered the price considerably and made different versions to attract new customers.
However, I’ve discovered something even more amazing! There are now lots of other companies out there with tools to create PDF files. At least one offers most of its tools for free! (Of course, you pay for it by having to close pop-up ads.) If you are interested, see http://www.pdf995.com/.
I’m considering moving this newsletter onto a PDF format. If you have comments on that, pro or con, please let me know. And, as always, visit the Companion Resources website and associated online stores to support this ongoing work.
Blessings in your ongoing journey!
Paul D. Leichty
Phone/Fax: 1-877-214-9838 (toll free)
“People using Technology building Community”