Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Intentional Love: Reverence

Continued from the post: Intentional Love

by Troy Chapman

(published January 06)

Reverence is recognizing the intrinsic value of the person or thing in question. “Intrinsic" means: Belonging to the essential nature of a thing. Intrinsic value is value that cannot be reduced. It is the same no matter what people do or what their circumstance in life may be. An ax murderer has the same intrinsic value as the Dalai Lama or a newborn baby. A mentally deranged bum has the same intrinsic value as Bill Gates or the president of the United States of America.

One of the first things we do to our enemies is deny their intrinsic value. This makes it much easier for us to destroy or brutalize them. But we also deny or fail to recognize intrinsic value in many other cases. In fact, we do it whenever we judge the value of people and things in reference to ourselves. In other words, when we assign value according to how useful a person or thing is to us.

Intrinsic value has nothing to do with whether people or things are useful to us. It stands completely outside all human consideration. Our opinion or accounting of this value has no effect whatsoever on it. But, here's an important truth: our reckoning of and accounting of intrinsic value has a profound effect on us.

When we fail to recognize or acknowledge intrinsic value we belittle ourselves. This is because to deny intrinsic value in any one person or thing is to deny it in all things, including ourselves.

We're talking here about the virtue of reverence. Reverence is simply recognizing the intrinsic value of a person or thing. When we do it, it undermines the ego and our ego-centric view of the world and acts like yeast to our spiritual growth. This is how and why it causes transformation — because it is utterly contrary to our ego nature.

But it is a practice, something we commit ourselves to then forget and remember a thousand times a day. It's something that must be done with conscious effort until we become proficient at it and it becomes a habit of living.

An encouraging point about this process is that those instances when it is most difficult are always the most fruitful. Practicing reverence while talking to Mother Teresa is easy. Practicing it toward the rude person who just cut the line ahead of you or stole your parking spot is much more difficult — let alone toward criminals and terrorists and others who hurt us — but it will also be more fruitful in terms of spiritual growth if you make yourself do it.

Another point is that this practice is as much a matter of untraining ourselves as it is of retraining ourselves. By this I mean that we've been trained by our culture to value people and things according to how useful they are to us. In other words, we've been trained to not see intrinsic value. One way to begin untraining ourselves from this blindness is to consciously accept as truth the existence of intrinsic value. When I first started this process I told myself, "I know it's there. Now I have to learn to see it."

When we begin looking at the world with this certain knowledge and remind ourselves constantly that the reason we're not seeing intrinsic value is because we have poor spiritual eyesight, this will keep us looking — and if we keep looking we will begin to see.

This seeing is the first face of intentional love and when you encounter it you will find that you've had a glimpse your own true face.

Next time: Goodwill

Continued in the post: Intentional Love: Goodwill