For the last several months I have been facilitating a book study for the Chapel. We have been reading Mere Christianity written by CS Lewis. While some of the examples reflect the 1940’s as does some of his writing style, the book in many ways is a must read in my view.
In one chapter of his book. CS Lewis writes, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” He also notes the opposite is true.
There is little doubt in my mind that our actions directly affect our reactions toward others. This truth is empowering. If we seek better relationships with others, the key is to act as if such a better relationship is already in place. Our actions in fact create our realities and how we engage with others and how others respond to us.
As I watch dysfunctional relationships on the news, it strikes me that such relationships will never improve if people continue to act in ways that breed contempt. If our nation is to heal across all the divisions, perhaps the starting point is for people across the various divides to act in charitable ways with each other even if such actions are not in alignment with what a person happens to be feeling at the moment.
I invite you to experiment for a few hours sometime in the week ahead. Choose a one or two hour period in which you will engage with others in public settings, even strangers (e.g., servers, clerks, cashiers, folks walking past you, someone with whom things have been a bit strained, etc.). Make the decision to act as if you care about the person in front of you and how he or she is doing at the moment. While it may not be obvious through one encounter, my hunch is that over an hour or two, we will discover that our actions create responses in others that are in tandem with our conduct.
Jesus asks us to treat others as we wish to be treated. Jesus clearly understood intentional actions illicit reactions that facilitate all the things Jesus is looking for, compassion, kindness, gentleness, and the like. As CS Lewis wrote, “the Christian trying to treat everyone kindly, finds him or herself liking more and more people as he or she goes, including people he or she could not even have imaginined liking in the beginning.”
While all of this may not be easy at times, when it is all said and done, it is a rather simple and straightforward path to follow at a time when so much seems awry.
A postscript. This fall, I will be leading another book study online. Look for information in our Weekly Mountaineer later this summer. I’d love to have you join us, whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey in faith.