About a week or so ago, my wife asked me: “Have you lost your faith in humanity?” The question caught me off guard but what really surprised me was the realization that I have gone through a major paradigm shift in this regard.
You see, I used to believe that people were fundamentally good and, more importantly, loving. I used to think that many of us were wounded or deceived or ignorant… but I believed that these were all things that love, patience, and truth-telling could fix. Therefore, as I woke up to the deep injustices in our society — and to the absolutely unecessary sufferings of many — I wanted to do something to address those things and I assumed that others would want to do this as well. In particular, I assumed that others with similar worldviews to my own (Christians) would be keen to be better lovers of others once they realized what was going on in the world and right under their noses. Thus, as I began to journey alongside of those in exile, I also began to speak and write a great deal about these things.
However, as I have done this over the years, I have realized that most people (and most Christians) aren’t actually particularly interested in loving others or doing much of anything about the injustices that define our lives. Despite my various efforts to appeal to their intellects, to their emotions, and to their values — despite all my arguing, cajoling, begging, and provoking — most everybody remains untouched and keeps on doing what they’re doing without much concern for their neighbours.
This used to frustrate and anger me quite a lot… but I’ve realized that it frustrated and angered me because of the expectation I had for others — I had assumed that people were generally good and generally desiring to love others. I have since had to let go of this expectation. And it is this ‘letting go’ that could be described as my loss of faith in humanity.
Now I have come to believe that most people won’t change all that much over their lives and most people won’t ever give much of a damn about most others or about what goes on in our world. For now, I have learned to accept this. I don’t hold it against anybody. It is what it is. Instead of anger and frustration, I have learned resignation. I no longer expect much of anything of anybody. And maybe that’s what it means to practice grace.
(Oh, and I’ve also learned not to expect much of myself either. That might be what it means to practice humility.)