Lenten Reflections

Is your world view shaped by Exclusion or Inclusion?

Exclusion is a tricky thing.  We feel we are including people, but may not realize those we are including all look like we do, read what we read, eat what we eat.

Exclusion can be represented by a circle.  So can inclusion.  But, as C.S. Lewis writes, a circle of exclusion means others aren’t allowed in, and once you are in, you want to keep others out.  A circle of inclusion means it can keep expanding—everyone is invited.


“I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. […]
“… this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing—the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in—one way or the other you will be that kind of man. […]
“Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things. […]
“As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion: if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.

“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.”

—C. S. Lewis (1898-1963). “The Inner Ring” was the Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London, in 1944.  

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“We can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions, religious or secular, that speak of hatred, exclusion, and suspicion or work with those that stress the interdependence and equality of all human beings. The choice is yours.”

―Karen Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
God, help me focus on you and doing my best to serve you with the gifts you have given.  Help me to honor, not be jealous of, the gifts you have given others.  Teach me to include others as You have included me.  Amen.