Perhaps you have been following the unfolding stories of horror around how children and their unmarried mothers were treated in Ireland from the 1800’s until the 1960’s in so called “homes” run largely by orders of Catholic nuns. As is often the case now that such tragedy and horror is coming to light years after the fact, various implicated parties are scrambling for responses.
Looking back, if we can muster the honesty required, we can gain insight for the present and future. It is so clear to me as I read these stories that the way these unmarried young women and their babies were treated was inevitable at the time. The prevailing culture was built out of fear and judgment. Human beings acted out of that collective agreement for how we do things, and thousands of babies suffered, died and were buried in mass graves. Thousands of young women were virtually enslaved in laundry houses. At the same time period, out of a similar culture, African Americans and Native Americans were being treated with similar disregard for human dignity in the US.
Because people BELIEVED that being pregnant and not married, or being dark skinned, or being “savage” made them other and excludable.
Today, some BELIEVE that loving someone of the same gender makes them other and excludable.
Today, some BELIEVE that immigrants are stealing jobs, that poor people are lazy, that teenagers are spoiled–making all of them other and excludable.
We can choose a response that is not fear and judgment. It’s called acceptance. Acceptance begins at home, with me, with the one I see in the mirror. If I allow myself to be critical and judgmental with myself on a regular basis, then it becomes the way I approach others.
Imagine a future based on acceptance. No one sent away. No one shamed. No one abused. No child forced into hunger and disease. No mass graves. No slaves. No trails of tears.
The blow of judgment is a virus that infects every new generation. The embrace of acceptance can sustain whole lifetimes, whole generations. The embrace begins today, in the mirror. Go ahead. Find a mirror. Practice the embrace: I accept myself, in this moment, just the way that I am.
You cannot give what you do not have.