They and Us

brother-davidReprinted from an interview Rex Weyler and Catherine Ingram did with Brother David Steindl-Rast in New Age, September 1983:

How can people learn to communicate effectively, without anger or aggression?

That is where we have to work with ourselves. Anger in itself is not really wrong, but we cannot allow our anger to carry us away and make us violent. This I find myself a most difficult task: to always think in terms of “we” and not “they and us.” The moment that you divide people with they and us, you’re always on the right side and they are always on the wrong side, and I find that makes communication very, very difficult.

Last Lent – you know, Lent is our special time before Easter, six weeks in which we do a little housecleaning internally and externally, and pull ourselves together – last year for Lent, I almost tortured myself by it, but I think it was a very healthy exercise: I pinned up a photograph that I found in some journal that had Mr. And Mrs. Reagan and General and Mrs. Haig, all four of them, kneeling next to one another in a church pew. I had this thing in front of me every morning, when I got up, and it was a real experience: “This is us, they go to church and they are us, and so I cannot point my finger. I will have to find some other way.”

I think that, if we start working in this way on ourselves, we might eventually find a way. That is what Gandhi did, after all. I mean, it didn’t come so easy to him. He had to really struggle, and he had a very hard time. Gandhi, the Man by Eknath Easwaran has the distinction of really showing the development of the man. The film didn’t show that (it didn’t set out to do that; it had a different task), but Easwaran set out to show how Gandhi really grappled with his own faults to his last day. I think that is important for us to know.

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