The gift and threat of others

buchanan-street-view-black-and-whiteThe following is quite a long excerpt from the book Friendship and the Moral Life by James Paul J. Wadell but I think is well worth the read – so much so I bothered to type it all out….

‘We fear certain groups of people because of whatever it is that makes them different from ourselves. We see that difference as not something that could enlarge and enrich our world, but something we fear because we know if we accept it we will be changed. We see the other person as a threat because we both fear and resent the adjustments we must make if we allow them into our lives. We do not welcome them, we refuse to discover there is nothing more interesting than becoming part of another’s world. Instead we view them hostilely, we respond with some sort of violence, often as subtle as ignoring the other, refusing to pay them attention, which is a studied attempt to eliminate them from our world. Everyone of us knows what it is like to be ignored by another, to live or work each day with people who never notice us, who refuse to give us a moment’s attention. This hurts because we know when someone refuses to give us attention they implicitly attest that their world is not big enough for us.

There is often good reason to view another as a threat or for them to view us this way. Sometimes people make themselves threats instead of gifts. Few people, including ourselves are ever purely gift or wholly threat. Usually we are a mixture, evoking both trust and fear, anticipation and anxiety, in the lives of those with whom we mingle. The sin in ourselves, in others, and in our world accounts for the element of threat others see in us or we see in them. Even our friends are seldom purely gifts in our lives. They are partially gifts, perhaps primarily gifts, but at some point, through a moment of hurt or betrayal, through some piercing disappointment, they, too, have likely become threat to us. The history of all our relationships, including our friendships, is a mixture of gift and threat, relationships basically of trust that are occasionally wounded by hurt and unkindness.

That is the fact. The challenge in all our relationships, in every encounter with another, is to allow “the gift to triumph over the threat and so towards enabling the genuine communion and mutual enrichment of the two worlds and not towards the elimination or subordination of one or both.” Every relationship is a delicate mixture of gift and threat. In the history of our relationships with others we should work to enable the gift to gain supremacy over the threat aspect of those relationships, but hopefully, through love, trust, and forgiveness, to move toward elimination of the threat. Short of the Kingdom, a total elimination of the threat is unlikely, but it is towards that love works’.


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