… And see some more

          But who can detect their errors?
             Clear me from hidden faults.
—Psalm 19.12

I made a hurtful mistake yesterday, and I apologize.  In criticizing people with closed-minded, delusional thinking I paired them with people with schizophrenia. They are not the same, and it is hurtful to suggest that they are. Mental illness is not a choice, or something that one should confess or repent of. I am sorry for magnifying the stigma we have attached to mental illness. I acknowledge the hurt I caused by saying it, the hurt for people with mental illness to see themselves lumped in with people making bad choices. I am sorry for that. (It was in emailed versions, but I removed it here.)

Here’s the awful thing. I’ve long thought we should avoid using words like “sick” and “crazy” in criticizing people exercising poor judgment—it is deeply unfair to people suffering mental illness. But here I essentially made that very mistake. I did stigmatize mental illness. Maybe there’s something deep in my mind that does think poorly of mentally ill people. I hold, somewhere deep in my subconscious, a belief contrary to my beliefs! Fortunately I was invited to notice it, and I am grateful for people around me who wake me up, hold me accountable, and keep me honest. Thank you. Now I’m a little more aware.

This happens all the time. Our consciousness is a muddle of our own chosen values and the voices of our society that insinuate themselves into our minds like a virus. We hold contradictory beliefs. Sometimes we think things we don’t really believe. Here’s the thing: being wise or foolish, sensitive or mean, sexist or woke or racist or anti-racist is not a permanent state. It’s moment by moment. Even a committed anti-racist will sometimes have racist thoughts. It’s human. Hurtful voices run deeper in our subconscious than we know. We have to stay humble, vigilant and self-reflective. We have to give up being right, and take our critics seriously. We have to listen, confess, learn a little more, repent, and try to stay aware, ready to discover when we’re wrong.

For vigilance– mine and yours– I give thanks, and thanks as well for the grace to learn and move on to love mercy, to do justice, and to walk humbly with God.

Deep Blessings,

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

January 13, 2021

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