Repentance

Faith like a child.  Religious followers are told to trust their God with childlike faith. In general, I believe we should all approach the world with a sense of childlike hope and trust.  But we don’t.  We are jaded, cynical, and often proud of this and our ability to live independently and survive harsh conditions.

Children view the world as a brand new, exciting place.  Everything is amazing, fascinating, exciting.  Ideally, they are feed, clothed, protected by, and loved by a community of adults in their lives. Innocent, and considered stupidly naïve by some, but because of this, children are the ultimate risk-takers.  They haven’t been let down, haven’t been hurt, haven’t lived with years of empty promises and aching hearts.  Therefore children rush head first into new activities, willingly answer questions that they truly don’t know the answer to, and invite relationships with all people.

As time goes on, we all learn to protect our bodies and hearts above any other interest.  And some cultures instill a complete individualistic attitude where serving yourself is not only top priority, but the only priority.

Unfortunately, self-protection and self-service often leave us in deeper hurt. The girl who has heard too many empty promises of love eventually refuses any type of intimacy, emotional or physical, and lives in totally isolation.  The boy who lost too many toys and products of his own labor to seemingly curious friends “just taking a look” eventually protects everything he earns with such vicious efforts that he too lives in isolation.  The measures we take to protect ourselves from the harms others inflict upon us do such a great job that no one gets close.  Likewise, we eventually find that no one is around to help in our desperation.

Working in the world of aid reveals all kinds of self-protection measures, and often brings out a clash between self-protection and altruism.  There are stories of groups of people unable to understand why someone is helping them; because their culture dictates that self-interest always, always, always comes first.  So why then, would some stranger willingly help them out, and for free?  Others blatantly refuse help because the walls built to keep people out do not leave room for trusting outside help.  “…[T]hese are our problems, not yours.  We don’t want anybody fighting for us—and we certainly don’t want anybody feeling sorry for us,” was the response of a female, Saudi doctor when asked about her status in Islam.  This denial for help stems from a mistrust of intentions, because too many previous “do-gooders” didn’t do any good at all.  So we are taught, over time, to do everything for ourselves and by ourselves.

How then, can we ever look at the world with the faith and hope of a child?  Every breach of faith, every promise broken, and every wound caused through action and inaction adds another brick to our walls of self-protection.  Every wound caused by another human reaffirms the belief that protecting ourselves from every other person is vital to our survival.

Yet there is hope.  Every so often someone does something to you that restores your belief in humanity.  That would be repentance.  Admitting to our mistakes, first of all, says, to one whose main concern is self-protection, ‘your self was harmed and I’m at fault’.  This statement can bring the walls down, or at least parts of them.  This statement offers the possibility to trust in people again.  It opens a door for communication that can eventually lead to restoration.  It did for Chantal.

Sources:

Kristof, Nicholas D and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky. Vintage Books: New York, 2009.

Eggers, Dave. What is the What. Vintage Books: New York, 2006.

Hinson, Laura Waters. As We Forgive, Epilogue. 2010.

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