When confronted with everyday 21st Century life, many of us still use the natural gifts of flight or fight as a response. Of course, I don’t do that! Well, maybe, once in awhile. I’ll admit maybe I’m too ready to fight or at least sign an online petition when I read or hear from certain politicians or church people. I’ll also admit that when I hear of all the violence on the evening news, I want to avoid those areas where the violence takes place as well as those people involved. There is another way however. There is a third way, or the discipline of patience or compassion.
In last week’s post I quoted McNeill, Morison and Nouwen in their book Compassion (1982)equating compassion with patience. A couple of pages on in the book, they describe how St. Paul the Apostle connected patience and compassion, writing: “For Paul patience is indeed the discipline of the compassionate life.” They go on at length describing the how the Christian is the one who gets involved in life fully, confronting injustice and actively suffering with those who are experiencing pain, violence or neglect. “Patience means to enter actively into the thick of life and to fully bear the suffering within and around us…Patience is an extremely difficult discipline precisely because it counteracts our unreflective impulse to flee or to fight.”
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word discipline, I think of boot camp, sitting in the assistant principal’s office at school or life in the Novitiate. In other words, discipline is a practice needed in my past life, when I was young. I have to take a second look when someone suggests I need discipline in my life today. Today’s TED Loyola Marymount Talk features Captain Casey Whitson, U.S. Air Force “Embracing Discipline”
After reading Nouwen et al Compassion and listening to Captain Whitson, I’m thinking maybe it’s time for me to recommit myself to a life of discipline.