Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Shared Humanity

In his book on prayer With Open Hands Henri Nouwen writes of a compassion that comes from learning through prayer how alike all other humans we truly are:
Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls which might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end.

With this compassion you can say, "In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hands. Their flesh is my flesh; their blood is my blood; their pain is my pain; their smile is my smile. Their ability to torture is in me, too; their capacity to forgive I find also in myself.

There is nothing in me that does not belong to them, too. There is nothing in them that does not belong to me, too.

In my heart, I know their yearning for love and down to my entrails, I can feel their cruelty. In another's eyes, I see my plea for forgiveness and in a hardened frown, I see my refusal. When someone murders, I know that I too could have murdered, and when someone gives birth, I know that I am capable of birth as well. In the depths of my being, I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and hate, life and death."


  • At 8/25/2006 9:19 AM, Anonymous Kay said…

    This reminds me of a book , LOVE AND DUTY, written by Ben and Anne Purcell. Mr. Purcell was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five years. He speaks of the "Stockholm Syndrome", saying that rather than going over to the same side as the captor, it is a person's way of seeing the humanity in the person holding you captive and therefore, responding to that humanity. Sorry, I am just paraphrasing here, Mr. Purcell put it so much better in his book.

  • At 8/25/2006 10:37 AM, Blogger CSL said…

    The practice of acknowledging that there is nothing in anyone else that is not in you strikes me as one of the single most important things we can do. It cuts across religions, and ties us all together. I heard Thich Naht Hanh read his poem "Call Me By My True Names," addressing that very issue. It can be found at:


  • At 8/25/2006 11:09 AM, Anonymous William said…

    The inability to see ourselves in others has been the souce of a great deal of hatred and violence. I think people feel a perverse sense of empowerment when they believe they are superior to someone else. Only with the realization that despite the outward differences in race, creed color, finances, gender, and religion, that we all come from the same source and are headed in the same direction can peace truly be achieved. We must be willing to be open to the harsh reality of our own human nature and biases. When we understand that we are loved unconditionally, only then can we love unconditionally.


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