Making Sense Of What Just Happened

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change | 1 comment

“Are you the only one in the world who has not heard what is going on in (Washington?)”  (Luke 24:18) People from around the world are trying to make sense of recent events. I offer some resources for reflection.

The five stages of grief (1969)

I suspect most can relate to the questions and recognize Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief.

  • Denial – “This can’t be true. There must be a mistake.”
  • Anger –”Who is to blame?”; “Why would this happen?”
  • Bargaining – “Maybe if …”
  • Depression – “I’m so sad”; “I have to shut out the news?”
  • Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.”; How can we move forward, come together

Of course, we cycle backwards and forwards through these emotions and sometimes experience more than one stage at once.

Scott Peck’s four stages of community

A few years later century (1987) F. Scott Peck wrote The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace

  • Pseudocommunity: people pretend to have a balanced and open friendship with one another, and cover up their differences, by acting as if the differences do not exist.
  • Chaos: people in the community realize that differences cannot simply be ignored. Chaos looks counterproductive but it is the first genuine step towards Community building.
  • Emptiness: people learn to empty themselves of those ego related factors that are preventing their entry into Community.
  • True Community: People are able to relate to each other’s feelings. Discussions, even when heated, never get sour, and motives are not questioned.

It is helpful to keep our eye on the prize. He wrote,

In genuine community there are no sides. It is not always easy, but by the time they reach community the members have learned how to give up cliques and factions. They have learned how to listen to each other and how not to reject each other.

… Community is a place where conflict can be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace. A community is a group that can fight gracefully.”

Pope Francis – “Fratelli Tutti”

Isn’t this a description of what Pope Francis describes in his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti?

From “Dialogue and friendship”, emerges the concept of life as the “art of encounter” with everyone… because “each of us can learn something from others

The Pope underlines that peace is connected to truth, justice and mercy. Far from the desire for vengeance, it is “proactive” and aims at forming a society based on service to others and on the pursuit of reconciliation and mutual development (see Par 227-229).

Thus, peace is an “art” that involves and regards everyone and in which each one must do his or her part in “a never-ending task” (see Par 227-232).

Forgiveness is linked to peace: we must love everyone, without exception – the Encyclical reads – but loving an oppressor means helping him to change and not allowing him to continue oppressing his neighbor (see Par 241-242). Forgiveness does not mean impunity, but rather, justice and remembrance, because to forgive does not mean to forget, but to renounce the destructive power of evil and the desire for revenge.

Your assessment

  • Which of Kubler-Ross’ five stages best describes you these days?
  • Can conflict be resolved without physical or emotional bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace?
  • What do you think of Pope Francis’ concept of life as “the art of encounter”?

PS. I must admit when I first read F. Scott Peck’s 1983 book, People of the Lie I was frightened by his description of evil. Rereading today his description of evil people is both more frightening and accurately prophetic.

1 Comment

  1. Ross

    Thank you, John, for making me and others aware of what we do unawares. Such awareness surely helps us to know ourselves better.

    I’ve not read F. Scott Peck, but let me just say that I’m somewhat uncomfortable with what is said about chaos, especially about: “Chaos looks counterproductive but it is the first genuine step towards Community building.”

    That there is chaos, there is no doubt. Is it inevitable? Can’t we not prescind from it in our attempt to bring about order? Do we need to go through more chaos for the sake of order?

    My discomfort, I guess, is that I facilely associate this with the Hegelian dialectic especially as applied by Karl Marx and the notion of the inevitability of “class struggle” to bring about a “classless society.”

    About Pope Francis, I see him more as basing himself on Jesus as bringing not peace but division, that he is destined for the fall and rise of many and to be a sign that will be contradicted.

    This Jesus, I believe, prayed and lived to the full all the mysteries of life–joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious. To him we look to for guidance, so that we may be led through the joys and sorrows of this life to the light and glory of the the life to come.

    But we do have to be founded on the truth, not on the pretense that there is peace, not on false irenicism.

    I hope I am not off-base and that this is not just pious sentiment or wishful thinking on my part.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This