Over the Hills and Everywhere

Column by Rev. Lauren Van Ham on 2 February 2023 0 Comments

“Where are Americans finding meaning in their lives? How are they marking the passing of sacred time? Where are they building pockets of vibrant communities?

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How do I talk with compassion to a neighbor who is afraid we are in the end times? She is a very conservative 80-year-old widow living alone whose daughters will sometimes belittle her faith. She is pleased that I am no stranger to the Bible, and will quote scripture, interpreting it in a drastic way - she is very frightened by the chaos and violence being reported every day, including the effects of climate change, and she takes it all as a sign that we are all doomed until the second coming. I have no interest in entering into a debate with her about scriptural interpretation. Instead, I would like to know how to talk with her gently in terms she will understand.


Dear Carolyn,

Let me begin by acknowledging the compassion and kindness and respect your own words embody.

Where I begin with anyone is the recognition that they are a sacred being on their own journey. I have no idea how their life, or mine, will evolve and unfold. There are no predetermined paths or shoulds to the unfolding of a life. In the wisdom of the Enneagram the only Holy Plan is the unfolding, moment-to-moment, of life.

I’ve also discovered that the greater my awareness becomes that Boundless Love is Reality as such, I relax and receive another as they are. My agenda, whatever that might be, recedes in importance. When it does arise – which I can feel as a drivenness to change someone or do or say something – I breathe and bracket it; I don’t deny or suppress my desires, I simply and significantly set them aside. What matters is the life sitting across from me. My attention to them – which is kindness – communicates that they matter, here and now. For me, they are sacred as they are. Such kindness is healing.

Fear has many faces, but its taproot almost always resolves into our survival drive. I encourage you to converse with compassion as you practice listening with your heart open and knowing that some days will go better than others. Love is the affirmation of the value of what is already present and arising. Explore with wonder – even the arising of fear. For me, this translates into not offering unsolicited information or advice. The most significant gift between the two of you is the field of trust that emerges as you hold one another in respect and mutually honor each other’s life’s journey.

If your friend asks a question, it signifies that she is open to receiving from you. My guess is that what her soul seeks most is resonance, not information. Someone who beholds her as she is, with 80 years of life-experience, and does not belittle or dismiss her fears and beliefs. Beneath any presenting desire there is to know about things such as climate change and second coming (and I in no way dismiss the importance of scientific knowledge), is the soul’s deeper longing to rest in our own innate goodness; this awareness alone calm the heart’s fear. This awareness is hers alone to realize. You can walk beside her as she explores – an invaluable gift – but the journey is hers.

~ Kevin G. Thew Forrester, Ph.D.




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