Engage Others
01 April 2005

Step Two to Remaking the World

THIS IS a radical agenda. When I write about ‘remaking the world’, I do so in the context of my belief that there is a Divine intention behind creation, both loving and dynamic. Remaking the world is about embracing that original vision and the transformation it will require of us all.

It means responding to the call, both personally and collectively, to create a new culture which replaces that of greed and growth, conquest and control, expansion and exclusion with one where justice, compassion, integrity and faith inform the doing and being of nations. Where forgiveness and generosity are the order of the day and no one starves because of another’s greed or suffers because of another’s lust or is rejected because of another’s fear.

It means living as if the other person really mattered: being the change we want to see in the world. And it expects us to give everything to it. A friend of mine found himself sitting next to Mother Teresa on a flight. She told him, ‘Do not ask young people to give their weekends, ask them to give their lives.’

In the first article of this series we looked at hearing the call to be a part of this agenda. In the second, we looked at how—and why— to start the transformation process in our own lives. The next stage is to engage others—and engage with others—in the service of God and this vision.

Every encounter holds the potential for mutual transformation. Whether we like it or not, we have an impact on other people the entire time, for better or worse. In engaging others to become part of remaking the world we are becoming more intentional about that impact.

Krishnadas Shah was a young teacher when he joined Mahatma Gandhi at a Quit India Rally. He volunteered to keep the toilets clean at the site. Later Gandhi asked to meet him and asked him whether he would give the rest of his life to the digging of hygienic toilets through the villages of India. ‘But I have a wife and family,’ he replied. ‘Can you start tomorrow?’ responded Gandhi. And 40 years later, an old man when I met him, he was still doing it.

Many people are advocates of change, but only those involved in the process of personal transformation themselves can be agents of a change of heart. It’s like the measles. You can talk about measles but you cannot actually give the other person measles unless you have them yourself!

The start is to create a hospitable space where friendship and trust can be built. Our caring and the humble and honest sharing of our own change journey can open the door to give a glimpse of new possibilities—both for the individual and the community. Asking the right questions, being willing to learn, and listening, for hours if need be, are primary tools of engagement.

Transformation begins when any person faces, names and disempowers the destructive habits and attitudes that have control in their lives. Healing and liberation follow as love and forgiveness are empowered instead and new relationships are built. Agents of change are created when that new life and liberation are put at the service of the community in teamwork with others.

A young African friend found this freedom recently when he was reconciled with his father and offered to pay back money he had cheated from the company where he worked. He is now on the cutting edge of an anti-corruption campaign across Africa and engaging other young people in it with him.

So what blocks us from engaging people in this way? I find that fear often holds me back.

The fear of rejection, of looking stupid, of having nothing to give.

The fear that I do not have the right to tell another how to live. (Of course, I don’t, but I am gifted with friendship to offer and hope to share. And the other person is free to engage or not.)

The fear that my hypocrisy will be shown up. The fear of manipulation and mind control, of getting out of my depth.

These and many others. And, yes, they may happen. I may get hurt or even hurt others. I do make mistakes, but if my motive is love and I am honest with myself, fear loses its power and change and forgiveness are always possible.

And if at the same time I practise inner listening, in silence, to the voice of love and truth, seeking the wisdom of God, with no defences or pretences, I open myself to be corrected and led.

And I can engage with others in this universal practice which underlies all the work of transformation. From LaoTse to Elijah to Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed to Gandhi, the tradition of listening to the inner voice is the untapped reservoir of wisdom, of direction, the ‘mother tongue of the universe’. Then together we can engage in a radical remaking.

This article is part of a series of five. See the next issue for step three: ‘Create answers’

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