stories Archives - St. Croix Church

Sculpture of two men arguing

Loving Enemies – Pt. 2 (Stories and Compassionate Curiosity)

By Articles

In the first part of this series, the focus was on a two-part commitment aimed at helping us to avoid dehumanizing the other in the midst of conflicts and challenges. In this part, I want to focus on how personal stories and compassionate curiosity can help the opposite of dehumanizing: the building of Sculpture of two men arguingempathic connections with others, including those who so frustratingly see the world differently from us.

But first, I just want to name the fact that a lot of other factors besides our tendency to avoid difficult emotions can make us lean toward dehumanizing the other:

  • Decontextualization: so often we are interacting and relating to people whose histories and contexts are nearly completely unknown or very misunderstood
  • Depersonalization: it’s hard enough for us to remember the unique individuality of the people we live with, let alone remembering that the billions of people on our planet are just as much unique individuals
  • Unfamiliarity: it can be hard for us to see what we have in common with people whose lives are so different from ours
  • Capitalist exploitation: from algorithms that keep us in social media bubbles to systemic demands for cheap labour, there are huge forces at work that benefit from and encourage dehumanization
  • Prioritization of abstract principles and beliefs: ideological principles and religious beliefs can demand such loyalty and passion that we don’t see when they are crushing humanity

There are so many obstacles! And I will suggest that one attitude to help us overcome them is the development of “compassionate curiosity.”

Curiosity has occasionally had a bad reputation, but compassionate curiosity is “de-weaponized” curiosity. This is not curiosity that is used against others or even at the service of our own agenda, but curiosity for the sake of mutual compassion and growth. This is a desire to learn honestly and fully with open minds, with courage to see what can be seen.

Here are a couple examples of questions that grow out of compassionate curiosity when we disagree. Or when we hear someone say something that we hate, and we wonder what we can say or do:

  1. What’s your biggest/deepest concern in all of this? What are you mostly concerned about?
  2. What kinds of things do you find matter the most to you in all of this?

We can then deepen the potential of this compassionate curiosity by listening for the human, personal stories that form the context of people’s lived experience and the mix of prejudices and worldviews that understandably grow out of them.

In the early days of our most recent trajectory toward polarization, Parker Palmer made a post shortly before Thanksgiving. He’d heard that many people were dreading holidays and a shared dinner table surrounded by sharply opposing views. I’ve lost his exact words, but he encouraged us to ask each other about the stories that gave rise to the strong feelings we had. Listening to these stories and deepening our understanding of family whose views have felt toxic to us would be far more beneficial than argument around the table. I’ve had enough experience of both to know that he was right.

So the encouragement in this second part on loving enemies is to practice compassionate curiosity and use it to invite stories that help you understand why the points of view that you find so difficult matter to others. Asking with genuine compassion is far more potent than opposing.

If you’d like to read more about this, I’d encourage you to read this OnBeing post by Sharon Salzburg, and, of course, continue to part 3.

white dove carrying a leaf the colours of a pride flag

Pride Is Possible

By Talks

On the first Sunday of Pride month, Jess Williams reflects on the history of Pride and how it models a way of walking the path Jesus walked while highlighting the history of St. Croix Church and its decision to split paths with the Vineyard

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