Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Projection: of Logs and Specks

Projection is a psychological concept was made popular by the great Swiss psychiatrist and thinker, Carl G. Jung. The idea is that we take the negative emotions and behaviors within ourselves and “project” them onto others. For example, If I can’t stand someone’s behavior, I am probably projecting on that person my own unresolved issues with that behavior.

I find it fascinating that Jesus identified the phenomenon of projection nearly 2,000 years before Jung: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NRSV) The context is in judging others when our own behavior is just as bad. We criticize little things in our neighbor’s behavior, when our own unresolved attitudes and behavior are even bigger than what we are criticizing in our neighbor or someone else.

The phenomenon of projection is as old as humanity. The two most common emotions that are projected are anger and fear. We are told as Christians that we are not to be angry, even if all of us are to a certain extent. We repress the emotion until we can no longer hold it in, and we explode. Or we project it on to other people. We are also told as Christians to “fear not,” but all the messages we hear, especially in the political arena, cause us to fear. So, we repress our fear or project it on to others.

I personally repressed my anger for many years until one occasion when it exploded against my innocent daughter. I had to do some serious self-examination to realize that anger was capable of doing great physical harm to other people if I didn’t check it. This was done by serious inner work. Unfortunately, few people take the time to do such inner work and continue to repress and project.

In my reading of the political scene in the USA, it seems to me that those on the left project their anger on those on the right; those on the right project their fear on those on the left. No one is willing to examine their inner souls to see what unresolved issues within they are projecting on to others, so it ends up with both sides yelling at each other.

Beyond anger and fear, much of the projection we do comes from self-loathing. Our US American culture constantly sends us messages that we are not good enough. Of course, there are endless amounts of products available to make us feel better about ourselves. I thought that when the authoritarian generation passed away and the new “I love you forever” generation would raise their kids, that self-loathing would pass away. Not so. Our culture has found endless ways to make them feel as negative toward themselves as my generation did.

I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ and I found this quote: “. . . if you nurture hatred toward yourself, it won’t be long before it shows itself as hatred toward others.” This is the worst kind of projection and is so prevalent in our current cultural scene. The amount of hatred both openly and covertly expressed toward others currently is cause for concern. And it comes from unresolved self-hatred.

Jesus’ said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8) In order to obtain a “pure heart,” one that is free of projection, we need to do serious inner work; contemplative work. The book I wrote with my sister, The Spacious Heart has many suggestions on how to do that inner work. May your find your soul and “see God.”

Saturday, April 20, 2019

My Morning Walk: Chronos or Kairos?

This morning my walk around my neighborhood was a Chronos walk. It could have been a Kairos one. Let me explain.

The Greek has two words for time which are Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is time measured by the clock in seconds, minutes, hours, days and years. Many modern watches and smart phones contain a chronometer, which measures the precise amount of time one spends on a particular activity. The word is a combination of Greek time Chronos and meter, an instrument of measurement. For years joggers, runners and walkers have worn them on their wrists to measure the time of their exercise. I remember purchasing my first wristwatch with one in about 1980, a real breakthrough at the time!

Kairos time, on the other hand, refers to an opportune moment, a breaking into one’s normal routine with a God moment; an inspiration.

I began my walk today in the penumbra of early dawn. By the time I reached the halfway point, the sun’s rays had lightened my path. For the past months I had been walking in total darkness. It was nice to be able to see once again the landscape of trees, green lawns and mountains on my morning walk. I wasn’t sure I would be able to take my walk this morning because of the unpredictable weather of spring.

Yesterday was a complete washout. Threatening clouds hung over our activities with high winds announcing an approaching cold front. Tornado watches were posted as the angry sky dumped torrents of rain on our roofs and on our enthusiasm. But the new day dawned with a full moon hanging on the horizon, cool temperatures, calm winds, and plants bursting in song and bloom wherever I turned.

In my writing, in my conferences and with my spiritual companions, I tell people to take meditative walks. To stop and “smell the roses.” To meditate on scripture, on a song or poem. To drink in God’s wondrous creation through the changing seasons and unpredictable weather patterns. To be and not just to do. To allow God moments to break through.

This morning I passed numerous Dogwood and Redbud trees in full bloom. The grass was the greenest it had been in months. The dirt and the grime of everyday life was cleansed from the previous day’s rain. The world was fresh and newborn.

There could have been many Kairos moments on my walk, but I was bound to Chronos. I had set my watch to measure the time, and my smart phone to map my path with GPS, to monitor my pulse and my pace. There were moments when I wanted to get closer to a tree or a flower, or to breathe in the freshness of the morning, but I wouldn’t allow myself to interrupt the walk. I was drawn to meditate but driven by numbers.

How often our lives are ruled and ruined by Chronos. How often even those of us schooled in the ways of Kairos fall back into our time-dominated routines. In this season of celebrating new life and resurrection, I challenge each of us to become more drawn to “opportune moments” and less driven by our schedules.