Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


A lot has been said of the value of three legged things to stand firm. A three legged stool is far better on uneven ground than a four legged stool, and a two legged stool, well, just would not stand up. So, it seems rather proper to speak of thee legs to hold up the central value of our Quaker faith, love. Trust, Forgiveness and Atonement, seem to me to be the legs, as I have found watching Quakers in conflict, and in my own conflicts in the meeting and life.

I have seen Friends claim to love as fFriends should, and yet, bear conflicts with other Friends for so long. At the core is often a failure to trust. They tell me, "I can't trust because..." and that because never evolves into anything but a barrier to love. Time does not heal, it adds layers to the walls. Trust takes interaction, openness, a light and open and an honest heart. Talk. Without talk there can't be trust, because, well, think about it, "I don't want to talk to you... but let's not have any missunderstandings... " There is a logical disconect there. When there is a missunderstanding... talk to each other, it is the only road to trust.

Arthur Berk, delivered a wonderful message last First Day. He said that we all know what we ask of God in our waiting on the Lord, and we all know the peace and strength He gives us in response. "What do we give back to the Lord?" he said. He said what we should give back is love to each other. Be a friend to those who need friends, be a father to those who need fathers, be a child to those who need a child... be God's work on earth.

Distrust keeps us from doing as Arthur said, to do God's work on earth. Each leg that holds up love stands alone. One can give trust, not because the other deserves it, but because it is righteous to give trust. But, the other two legs help, also standing alone.

Trust, not because thee knows thee will not be hurt by another. Trust not because it is the best way to reach that of God in the other, so hurt will not be done. Trust because thee is a child of love.

Atonement. Atone not because thee is wrong, or becase thee meant to cause hurt, or if thee did cause hurt. Atone. Atone, not because you expect forgiveness, but atone because thee is a child of love.

Forgiveness. Forgive, not because the hurt is done, but if thee forgives, the hurt has less weight, but that is not why thee forgives. Forgive because thee is a child of love.

I beg fFriends that we become children of light, once more, children of love.


At 8:26 AM, Blogger Contemplative Scholar said...

Here is a recent realization I have had: everyone deserves respect; but trust must be earned.

Respect involves always looking for that of God within people. Respect involves the humility of realizing that people are generally doing the best they can, and you don't always know another's motives or feelings, and so it is not yours to judge people to be "bad." Respect is a continued openness to the possibility of goodness emerging in relationship.

But we are interdependent beings, and our behaviors do affect each other, and so if others do things that hurt us, we have good reason to withdraw trust, which is different from respect. Withdrawing trust is a way of pulling back from relying on someone who has betrayed that trust. It is not a virtue to trust the untrustworthy, because trusting such a person allows that person to continue to abuse the trust.

When trust is breached, both people involved have work to do. It is nice if the person who felt let down tries to communicate clearly to the other what they did that was hurtful, and gives that person a chance to redeem himself or herself. But the burden rests more on the person not-trusted, to try to understand what went wrong and to re-establish their trustworthiness. Promises are less convincing than visible changes of behavior.

I say all of this from reflecting on my own long struggles with trust.

The love I strive for is to uphold the highest standards of respect towards everyone, but to refrain from trusting (relying on) those who do not respect me or who have betrayed my trust in the past but have not yet come to terms with this.

These are really difficult, but really important issues. Thank you for posting on such an important topic.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

I think thee may be mistaking trust for caution. In most clearness committees I have sat in on, I find that the core barrier to moving forward is a lack of trust, not a sense of caution. In caution we are careful of our interests, in trust, we give the other a chance.

At 5:39 AM, Blogger Contemplative Scholar said...

You are right to point out that, in my posting, I do speak much about caution. That is because I think caution is an appropriate companion to trust.

But I see from your comment that your concern may arise from something a little different from what I was originally thinking. When you say, "In most clearness committees I have sat in on, I find that the core barrier to moving forward is a lack of trust, not a sense of caution," now I see that you are writing maybe about the dangers of habitual over-caution.

I think habitual over-caution is a huge problem in our culture today. Our culture plays so much on anxiety and fear -- it's an effective way of getting people's attention and controlling their behavior -- that we are all vulnerable to habitually exaggerating reasons to be anxious and cautious.

But fears and anxiety can also be rooted in personal experience. So we do have to be sensitive to each other when we enter the arena of bringing fears out into the open. I think that one of the most important ways we can minister to each other is to help each other to cultivate courage.

It is difficult to learn how to do this well, but much of it has to do with reminding each other to keep trying to live from faith (e.g., making decisions based on positive affirmations of what really matters -- what is worth striving for, and why), rather than negatively by reacting against fear and anxiety.

In many of your postings, I see that this is what you are trying to do. I have admired your ability to give voice to difficult but crucially important questions. I wish you well!

Meanwhile, your postings have prompted a flurry of new thoughts on my part about respect, trust, and faith, and so I expect I'll probably post soon about all of that back on Embracing Complexity.


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