Faith requires me to turn myself inside out. Think about turning a bag inside out. The first step is to reach into the bag. You then grab the bottom and pull. I think it's the same with us. Before we can turn ourselves inside out--before we become people for others--we have to look into the deepest part of our selves. We have to wrestle with our demons and dance with our angels. (I think that's why tai chi has become such an important part of my prayer life.)
But we can't stay in that place of introspection. We have to pull. How do we do this? In my Franciscan tradition, we do that by embracing poverty. Jesuits do it through discernment. Buddhists by teaching relinquishment. What's interesting is that all of these methods--poverty, discernment, and relinquishment--are means to freedom and liberation.
So, how can we turn ourselves inside out?
- Avoid getting into arguments. When we argue, we try impose our beliefs on someone else. You try to take another person's beliefs and replace them with your own. That's the exact opposite of poverty. Evangelization is not about winning arguments; it's about being an authentic witness.
- Assume the best in others. Always put the best possible spin on what other people do or say instead of condemning them. If you find this difficult, then ask them to share their understanding of why they do, say, or think the way they do.
- Reveal something about yourself. Saint Francis of Assisi used to wear patches on the outside of his habit so that people could see what his soul looked like on the inside. Share your struggles with people. Be honest--but not ashamed--about your weaknesses.
Yes, this may make you feel vulnerable. But the paradox of power is that our greatest strengths can only be found in our vulnerabilities.