I’m reading a new book, “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk.
It is a book about how experiencing trauma impacts the brain and in turn the body, and really all the things. It’s one of those books that makes me want to go back to school. I realize how little I know, how much there is to learn about helping people, about cultivating healing, in myself and with others. I’m only 74 pages in and I could already spend hours discussing the content.
It makes sense. My human growth and development courses were my favorite in divinity school. Sure, Old Testament and Church Formation were neat, I think , but really…I still have to google most of that information. I seemed to more naturally soak up the ideas and theories in my psych based classes better than dates, names and order. The other day I heard someone say they were a “moral psychologist” and I immediately thought, “That has to be the coolest thing on the planet to ever be!” (Right after being a pastor of course.)
Dr. Van Der Kolk starts this brain-body journey by sharing his experiences and then doing a quick overview of how our brains are developed. This one sentence made me crack-up:
“Realizing that other people can think and feel differently from us is a huge developmental step for two- and three-year-olds.”
A huge step for 2 and 3 year olds!? That’s a huge step for most adults. I’m in my 40s and need daily reminders to accept that people think and feel differently from me.
The book goes on to unpack the development of this function, the ability to realize not everyone is like us, and explain it’s role in survival and care as a species.
Someone asked me the other day, “Why do you seem so fixated on discussing our uniqueness and design?”
It’s because I think the more we know ourselves, and the more we realize our uniqueness, we learn to love others, being equally unique, and ourselves better.
I cannot “walk a mile in your shoes” because the moment you step out of your shoes and I put them on, you are now standing in a different space, and now they are my shoes. I can only view the world through my lens, but there is this magic, this mystery that happens, when I do my best to stand toe to toe, or at least try on your pair of life-glasses.
But even if you’re not really into all that, think about how often you say any of the following phrases:
“I just don’t understand why they keep…”
“How can they think that’s….”
“When will they see how….”
“You would think they would understand….”
Realizing that other people can think and feel differently from you can be a huge developmental step, or at least an opportunity to extend grace.
I realize the ability to recognize this concept was developed early in my life but I gotta be honest – I feel like I’m just now starting to put it into practice. My 20s and early 30s were spent confused, frustrated and judgey. Somewhere in my 30s I started a process to worry more about myself than all the crazy ways other people were acting. Maybe this comes naturally for certain personalities but it’s been a process for me.
Maybe you made this developmental leap early in life. Maybe you still find yourself frustrated that other people think and feel differently from you. Either way, creation gives us a kick-start toward the freedom and peace that arrives when we allow others the space for their own journey to unfold, and for God the do the work of the unfolding.