Tuesday, August 13, 2013

More Than the Simple Words I Try to Say

my wife and i love the bbc comedy, "keeping up appearances," and watch an episode most every evening on netflix.  the leading character in the show, a woman named "hyacinth," is the epitome of self-absorption:  every encounter with another person is about her and never the other person.  she loves to entertain in order to impress her guests with the elegance of her home and her abilities as a hostess.  she connives to create situations that will enable her to have her own way when others don't seem to giving in on their own.  she sends christmas cards to herself on the pretext that others would have sent them if they hadn't lost her address.  she believes her husband, family, and neighbors exist only to bask in the glory of her presence and to satisfy her needs.  tradesmen and acquaintances avoid her, and the milkman and postman try to make their deliveries in such a way that they avoid encountering her.  she is embarrassed by her married surname, "bucket," insisting that it is properly pronounced as if it were spelled, "bouquet."  i suppose the joy of watching hyacinth's machinations comes from seeing how horribly wrong things go, as her schemes and pretensions backfire, and in the end she is put in her place.

of course, hyacinth is amusing because she is such an exaggeration of people who do actually exist.  in the real world, such people are not fun to watch or be around.  they never express interest in the lives of others.  they talk but fail to listen.  they seek to control every encounter.  offers to help are not about a genuine desire to serve, but are instead about creating an opportunity for self-aggrandizement.   one wonders how such people can be so totally oblivious to how others are affected by their behavior.  what sort of upbringing creates such complete selfishness?  what inner needs for love do they have that cause them to view others as objects to satisfy their quest for recognition?

the hyacinths of the world do us a great service.  they challenge us to give love to those who are difficult to love.  they provide an opportunity for us to move beyond our initial impulse to avoid them and look for ways to address their suffering.  certainly there are times when we must refuse to give in to their need to control situations in order to protect them and others, and there are times when we must avoid being around them to protect ourselves.  even in those circumstances, we can still wish them happiness and a release from the motivations that cause their selfish behavior.

my prayer today is that we will look beyond the faults of others to see the person inside who longs to be loved.  may we understand that love doesn't mean giving in to the whims and schemes of others, but is the genuine desire for true happiness that eliminates the need to scheme.  shalom.

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