In a recent Latter-day Contemplation podcast that I co-hosted with Riley Risto and Christopher Hurtado, we talked at length about self-mourning and mourning with those who mourn as a means of healing ourselves and our country. (Actually, Riley and Christopher spoke at length and I had the good sense to just listen.) The rest of this article is in no small part a compilation of several notes taken from that podcast. There are many more excellent points in the podcast that are not in this article, and there are many other points in the article that are not in the podcast. I suggest that you read this and listen to the podcast. It doesn’t matter which one you do first.
This is a long article. It wasn’t meant to be this long, but it is what it is now. I have thought about adding a TL;DR abstract here, but I have intentionally restrained from doing so for a belief that this will touch those who it is meant to touch and be glanced over by those whom this wouldn’t land for if they had read it.
As I am the one typing this, this is going to be a one-sided discussion; however, as I am writing this I envision sitting on a comfortable couch with you as we share special moments of our lives when we have experienced the divine. It’s kind of a “kumbaya” moment. As I said, it’s a long read, so settle in. I have also put categories throughout the article so there are stopping points if you want to set it down and be able to pick it up again later to resume with ease.
Learning to Experience God
This article starts in an unlikely place: a discussion about experiencing God.
If I am honest with myself, I have spent far, far more of my life thinking about God than I have in actually experiencing God. Said in a different way, for the longest time I couldn’t wrap my mind around the reality that there was more to experiencing God than to spend endless hours thinking about him. For me, it was the difference between theology and theophany.
Sure, there was going to church and all of the religious rites and rituals in the ordinances that I love to experience, but there came a moment when I realized that while participating in the ordinances was an experience, these ordinances were merely symbols of other experiences that I could be having. For example: While baptism was an actual experience of dressing in white and going down into the water to be fully submerged while making special promises to God, baptism is also entirely symbolic of daily experiences of “dying to the old” that I can also have and experience. The day that I realized that I could (and should) experience what my baptism symbolized on a daily basis changed my outlook on the gospel forever. I find great beauty and connection with God in experiencing the ordinances, but I had completely ignored actually experiencing the referent that the ordinances symbolized. Rediscovering again and again what that referent actually is in my life has become one of my favorite gospel focuses.
Life is more than just believing in God. For all the believing in God, reading about God, talking about God, rationalizing about God, preaching about God, and arguing about God, I had never actually experienced the absolute awe and wonder of God. I felt positive feelings when I sang the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” but I had never actually had the experience of being “in awesome wonder” and in such overwhelming love to be able to personally exclaim “My God! How Great Thou Art!” as the hymn said. I knew the popular stories, scriptures, narratives, and ways of talking about God’s grace, love, and eternal mercy, and I had gone to my knees and received answers to prayers of forgiveness on countless occasions throughout my life, but I had never been captured in a single, pure, and unadulterated moment of absolute sublime felicity with the divine.
To be honest, I still haven’t been in that total and absolute moment. However, I have caught extremely pure and intimate “glimpses” of the divine in incredibly precious moments, so I know they exist.
As a Latter-day Saint, I recognize that we don’t really talk about God this way. In fact, we don’t use the word “God” in our belief tradition much at all. We use words like Savior, Redeemer, Lord, and Jesus Christ, and we speak of our Heavenly Father directly. This is not to say that we intentionally don’t use it as much, nor is it to say that we reject using it at all, but it is to say that we do emphasize other words for God that accentuate other meanings (which is perfectly fine).
In the same way, as a religious culture, we don’t really speak much about the emotions of God much either. This is not to say that we never do, but our focus is rather more on the fact that we believe that we can have access to God and that He answers our petitions (usually if/when we’re worthy of it) wherein we draw most of our Sunday School conclusions about his nature of being kind, benevolent, and wanting to reveal himself to us. We say things like, “God loves us, and we know that because He can answer our prayers.”
A God of Emotion
Over the years, I’ve experienced a God of emotion. A lot of Christians who believe in a God “without body, parts, or passions” will disagree with this statement, but the scriptures bear it out in John 11:35 that “Jesus [the incarnation of God on earth] wept.” Latter-day Saints have additional scripture in The Pearl of Great Price where Enoch also bears record of God weeping (Moses 7:28-40). God experiences emotion. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus Christ will be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 52:3). That said, we must be careful in many things, not the least of which is to remember not to project our own natural man emotions (i.e., those emotions originating from the false self) onto a perfect and eternal being.
I’m a sucker for internet memes. I love to collect and share what I consider good messages. A recent meme that I saw and posted said of Jesus’ character:
He cried. He knew Lazarus was dead before He got the news. But still, He cried. He knew Lazarus would be alive again in moments. But still, He cried. He knew death here is not forever. He knew evernity and the kingdom better than anyone else could. Yet He wept because this world is full of pain, and regret, and loss, and depression, and devastation. He wept because knowing the end of the story doesn’t mean you can’t cry at the sad parts.
Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and is the archetype of our humanity. Said in another way, Jesus Christ showed us what it really means to be human and to have correct human relationships. He was absolutely and totally present with each person that He came into contact with throughout His life. He was so present as to recognize in a throng of people when a needful woman had touched His clothes in order to find healing (Mark 5:25-34). He is perfectly aware, present, and unafraid.
This article of mourning is about how to be perfectly aware, present, and unafraid with ourselves and each other. It is about experiencing God through being present there with Him, and, in turn, truly experiencing our humanity as we serve God through serving our fellowmen (Mosiah 2:17). But how exactly is God present with us? How do we become present with ourselves? How do we learn how to be present and to suffer with our fellowmen as God suffers with us?
For these answers we turn to God himself.
When Jesus delivered His famous Sermon on the Mount, He started with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a type of “preamble” to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, contained within the narrative of the Beatitudes is the entire doctrine of Jesus Christ, and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is an extrapolation of little exposes and vignettes of explaining—in the people’s context—what a Beatitude-type person is and does. It is sad that for how important the Beatitudes are (they are, afterall, in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon), they are hardly ever spoken of—let alone understood—in our church culture.
The eight Beatitudes are not randomly selected virtues with seemingly opposite blessings attached to their transactional adherence. The Beatitudes tell us the story of our individual ascension and celestialization. Each Beatitude is descriptively sequential in their transformational telling. This is to say that it is really quite impossible to truly understand how to be and do the sixth Beatitude without first comprehending the first five. To understand the third Beatitude is to have experienced the first two. And that is really the whole point of the Beatitudes: that they are primarily intended as descriptive moments of experience, not properly understood as logically consistent propositional axioms. If we think we’ve rationally and mentally understood the Beatitudes without actually experiencing them, we haven’t actually understood anything at all.
The first Beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It is not happenstance that a beggar inherits a kingdom. The Beatitudes are full of such opposite blessings like this. Beggars get kingdoms, the mourning are comforted, the meek inherit the entire earth, and the starving are fed and made full, etc.
Poverty of spirit in this context refers to what is also called “emptying.” To be poor in spirit means that the fake-facade of the natural man (what Thomas Merton calls the “false self”) has self-destructed by yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19) and recognizing what has always already been there: the true self. God sees only the true self. He cannot look upon the false self with any degree of allowance (D&C 1:31) as that would legitimize our false alter-egos as having any basis in reality. God loves us too much to validate the source of our pain. The true self is what we always already were and are, and the false-self (i.e., the natural man) is the facade that is our own ego and meaning-driven identity.
In the LDS Bible Dictionary it defines repentance as “a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” The false identities that we assume throughout our life indoctrinate us against our true and already existent identity as children of God, and repentance is the process by which we recognize, realize, and reconcile that our previous idea of God was really just a projection of our own ego. Jesus Christ said it a little differently in “The Preface” of the Doctrine and Covenants:
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol… (D&C 1:16; italics added for emphasis).
Our false self projects our foibles, frailties, and failings onto God all of the time. We walk after the image of our own god, because “our own god” is typically the projection of our own ego onto the divine. It is amazing how much and how often God seemingly agrees with us, and how our view of God justifies our personal identities, beliefs, and political opinions. Said Thomas Merton,
So much depends on our idea of God! Yet no idea of Him, however pure and perfect, is adequate to express Him as He really is. Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.
Said in another way by Barbara Brown Taylor,
Ask anyone what she means when she says ‘God’ and chances are that you will learn a lot more about that person than you will learn about God.
As we repent, we learn to see God, ourselves, and each other in our true self and not in the false self/natural man. This is the very point of repentance. This is the very point of being poor in spirit, as it means that we have let go of all the valued attachments of our false self. We stand in our spiritual poverty without any earthly meanings or attachments that cumber or distort true experiences with God, ourselves, and our fellowmen.
In any discussion of the Beatitudes, there is far, far more attention given to the first Beatitude and the rich discussion of emptying than on all the other Beatitudes combined. In fact, once we truly understand the first Beatitude, the rest of the Beatitudes almost tell their own story themselves. When we truly experience what it is to let go of our pain, trauma, justifications, opinions, narratives, false beliefs, and identities, it is a moment of severe reckoning. In the Book of Mormon, this is what King Lamoni’s father (the king over all of the Lamanites) meant when he boldly prayed to God in front of Ammon’s brother, Aaron:
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee… (Alma 22:18; emphasis added).
Giving away all of our sins is not just to live a sinless life. In fact, it is much more harrowing than that. It is much more “meta” than that. It means giving up all of the false traditions and beliefs about God, ourself, and our fellowmen that lead us to sin. We see throughout the rest of the book of Alma that King Lamoni’s father truly abandons all of his old false traditions and beliefs, and this leads him to abandoning his old false identities. They did so well in giving up all of their old false identities that they didn’t even know what to call themselves anymore, and they settled on a new identity as the Anti Nephi Lehis.
Once we truly let go of our egos, our deeply cherished false beliefs, and our many, many false identities, there is an immediate experience that follows: mourning.
We wear the false self like a soft, warm, cozy security blanket, when in reality it is a loathsome, rotting, tattered, maggot infested, matted animal hide that we parade around in and seek to show off to others who are wearing their own decrepit hides themselves. The true self exists, and has always existed, under the facade of the rotten animal skin, yet we only perceive the garment and not the person behind it. Uncovering the true self is work. “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). We have an extremely hard time letting go of our own hide, let alone being able to see the true self in others behind their hides.
If we do manage to separate our true self from our false self, a mourning will always occur. And what we do with that loss of identity is what matters.
What is Mourning?
Mourning, in the context of the Beatitudes, is not simply about sadness, crying, or feeling bad for ourselves or others (although this can and regularly does happen as an expression of mourning). Mourning is the recognition of the pain and trauma in ourselves and others in the present moment, without judgement, ridicule, or bias.
Mourning has a far, far deeper meaning in human connectedness, both to ourselves and to others. To truly mourn for ourselves (or to truly rejoice with ourselves for that matter) is a moment of connecting to the true self beyond the layers of the false self that we deal with and perceive of ourselves on a daily basis. It is a moment when we are totally present for the experience we’re experiencing.
Nor is mourning always about sin. After all, Jesus Christ mourned, and He was sinless. Yet, Jesus Christ was tempted, so we know that He also knows the pains of dealing with the false self that we also experience.
Beyond the theory of thinking and talking about God’s nature, mourning is an actual experience of the divine. We mourn with ourselves and each other as God mourns with us.
Jesus Christ wept, and God cried.
Mourning is the process of becoming aware of our true self. First we must realize that our view of ourselves is largely a result of how we view God viewing us. Second we must recognize that how we view God viewing us is typically a subconscious ego-based projection of how the false self views itself. This is a seemingly hopeless tautology. Yet in the recognition of these two self-fulfilling views we recognize the need for repentance—to learn to see God with a fresh view and change of mind.
As we repent and see God differently, we immediately see ourselves differently. It is in that experience that we cannot help but see others—even our “enemies”—differently. Consider the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon who sought forgiveness for his own sins. When he actually experienced the awe of God’s atoning grace, that experience taught him something of God’s nature that he had never considered before in his false self. So radical was the experience between the old and new self that he questioned how any of it was even possible.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker and I cried unto him in might prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
And I said: Lord, how is it done?
And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ… Wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole (Enos: 1:4-8; italics added for emphasis).
Enos was brought into the awe of God and couldn’t understand it. He saw God differently, and, as such, he saw himself differently. He knew that God couldn’t lie, so he knew his sins were forgiven.
But Enos’ conversion doesn’t stop with himself. His poverty of spirit had led him to a personal connection with the divine. In his newfound experience with God Enos began to go beyond himself—a thing the false self cannot pray for his enemies, the Lamanites.
And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord: and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites (Enos 1:11).
Not only had Enos learned how to mourn, but he was learning how to mourn with those who mourn. He was learning how to see beyond the false self. The Lamanites were violent enemies to his people, yet Enos calls them “my brethren.” He recognized the source and pain in others, and he sought for them to be comforted not destroyed or punished. He leaves behind the earthly false identity of “enemy” and sees the eternal identity of family. This does not mean that the Lamanites did not still labor under their own false traditions, but it does mean that once we are poor in spirit and have truly learned how to mourn in seeing our true self that we begin to see humanity in others. What was once an “enemy” is now family.
It is through mourning that we begin to heal from a lifetime of false identities.
Why Do We Choose Not to Mourn For Ourselves or Each Other?
We don’t do the work to mourn, but why don’t we even seek to begin the work? Learning how to mourn is a harrowing experience. We all know what happens when we ask the Lord for patience: He doesn’t just give us patience, but, rather, He gives us opportunities to develop patience. I’ve never liked that. I don’t know anyone who does. But that is just how it seems to happen. It is difficult when we have to take loving our neighbor and enemy out of theory and turn it into actual practice.
The false self and the true self both sense and react to injustice, but these two selves have completely different ways of dealing with injustice.
The false self thrives on being right and proving a point, a belief, or a truth. The false self wants to fight back when it perceives something is in error until the other exhibits correct patterns of belief. The false self confuses what is right by arguing who is right, but it hides its confusion under layers of manipulation, self-righteousness, reasoning, and piety. The false self sees the world as me vs. you and us vs. them where there is always an “other” and an “enemy.” The false self finds unity with the false self of another by believing in the same enemy. Said differently, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The true self thrives on making a difference, building bridges, and healing wounds. When the true self observes something that it perceives it disagrees with in another, it seeks to understand, sympathize/empathize, and find moments of human connection with the other. The true self seeks for others to recognize their own true self, even if that means the other still has competing beliefs or opinions from our own. The true self uses persuasion and is long-suffering, gentle, meek, loving, and kind (D&C 121:40-42). The true self sees beyond the false facade to see the pain, anguish, turmoil, and suffering that the other’s false self creates, and the true self finds ways of always connecting to that true self in the other. The true self finds unity in the other not by conformity in belief or action, but in love. Said Richard Rohr,
There’s a difference between unity and uniformity, and they’re almost always confused with people in the early stages of life. They think unity is uniformity. Actually, spiritual unity is diversity maintained and protected by love. I love you to do it differently than me (Another Name for Every Thing (podcast): “Non-Duality in Relationships, Community, and Religion”).
The false self argues to justify its existence. It doesn’t like competition but, nevertheless, it thrives on competition. Ego against ego. The true self recognizes that reality is entirely consistent and doesn’t need to justify its existence. Being right, especially against the other, is therefore not of importance to the true self. The true self seeks to include everyone into the experience of God for themselves, encouraging others to experience truth in the way that God will manifest it to them. The true self has no ego involved.
While we exist in the false self we can only really see things through the lens of our ego. To the false self, personal mourning is just more needless emotionalism. We know the baptismal covenant is to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9), but mourning is an uncomfortable tax on our time, our emotions, and our mental health. Because the false self can only see the false self in the other, it never knows of true human connectedness and of being truly present with the other.
When another person mourns, the true self is not weighed down and physically or emotionally taxed by the other. The true self is not connecting with the false narratives of the other but only with their true self, and, in that way, truly mourning with the other.
Many times we refrain from mourning because we feel we already know the outcome. We feel we already know where our own or another’s choices, beliefs, or actions are going to lead us, so why even spend the time to connect? To humanize? To truly see and hear our own or the other’s true-self needs?
We also commonly feel that the other’s mourning is self-induced. Why should we spend our time mourning with someone who caused their own grievances to come upon themselves? Life is the best teacher, let life grieve with them. They made their bed, let them lie in it. Every person deserves their just reward, and so long as the consequences they are experiencing match what we believe are equal to the actions that caused those consequences, we typically have little to say. This is, of course, the false self talking, as the real self cares nothing for whether pain or trauma is self-induced. The real self is looking for the other’s real self, not for the consequences of the false self.
We often find the reason for another’s suffering to be well below what we think would be important enough for us to mourn with them. That is, at least, in our own estimation of what is important using our own metrics of “importance.” Yet, through mourning with someone over something that we don’t personally value we will often surprisingly find and connect with our own humanity. The true self does not need to weigh the weight of another’s suffering, as the true self is truly present with the other and sees their own immeasurable and infinite worth and importance.
As human beings—especially in the modern world—we place an extremely high value on our levels of comfort, and we exert extreme effort to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Yet we will always experience discomfort unless we break loose of our own ego and what our false selves feel is a necessary fight to prove who is right and wrong. We cannot seek to connect to the humanity in another when we are trying to prove a point. We have to consistently empty our own ego to see the humanity in the other. There is a reason why the first Beatitude is first and the second Beatitude is second.
It is always shocking when we perpetually discover and rediscover that that which we find the most difficult to deal with in the other is usually a projection of the thing that we find most difficult to deal with in ourselves. The most hated, despised, and unwanted things in ourselves are what we see in the other. Of a truth, what we hate in the other and that keeps us from mourning with them is almost always a projection of the very things we perceive that we hate and refuse to mourn for in ourselves.
How Do We Begin To Mourn for Ourselves and Each Other?
Leonard Cohen once sang, “Forget your perfect offering—there’s a crack in everything—that’s how the light gets in” (“Anthem,” 1992). Our false self is riddled with holes and cracks. The Lord is always seeking to touch our true self through the cracks of our false identities. We have an extremely loving, kind, merciful, compassionate, and powerful God that is engaged in His children’s wellbeing. His entire work and glory is our own immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39).
Our false self will not allow us to believe in the universality of God’s eternal and uncompromising love. The false self projects its own sense of justice onto God and preaches a transactional God that only loves, cares for, and blesses those who walk the path perfectly. For the false self, the transactional God—whose grace, mercy, and love we have to work and qualify for—is all that makes sense to us, because that is how we see and view our own selves in our own pain, trauma, and turmoil. The false self has never truly felt fully and completely wrapped in the total awe and wonder of God’s love and grace, so it cannot project and consider a God that would be this way.
To begin to mourn we must empty our own false self (i.e., our own pain, trauma, traditions, narratives, stories, and identities). We do this through repentance (i.e., learning to see God, ourselves, and each other differently). The examples of King Lamoni’s father and of Enos have been used in this article as examples of this type of repentance, but there are dozens of other scriptural examples.
My wife surprised me one day recently by asking me what choices in my life I would have made differently if I truly knew—if I really and truly knew—that I was already always and completely loved. It was a beautiful question that I pose to you: “What choices in your own life would you have made differently if you truly knew—if you really and truly knew—that you were already always and completely loved?” Sit with that question for a while. Let it sink down and let the question work inside of you.
For me, I recognized that almost all of my actions in life were made in the vacuum of not really and truly knowing that I was already always and completely loved. This, of course, does not mean that I haven’t felt love—deep love—from God, my wife, my children, and cherished friends. But there is a depth of the soul where all of our actions, beliefs, traditions, and identities are fed and find their taproot. Can we honestly and truthfully say that in the depths of our soul we feel totally and completely loved unconditionally?
I really, really hope so for you.
For as much as I see pain and trauma causing social conflict in the world today, I do not believe that my hope is true for the majority of us.
Learning how to sit with ourselves and connect to God’s love is of paramount importance in our life. I personally love the practice of “Centering Prayer” to do this (a new word to an old concept spoken of by many of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Catholic tradition). Finding new ways to pray when old methods of prayer are not working for us is extremely important in our repentance process. (Riley and I talk at length about our own experiences and discoveries of various forms of prayer in our podcast here).
Meditation has helped me uncover many of the false narratives that were plaguing me. Through meditation I was confronted with past anger and trauma that I had thought I had moved beyond, but I was able to discover that old narratives and ways of being were still influencing and impacting my daily life. The false self will always find ways to stay relevant in our lives, and it will cover its tracks extremely well when it feels threatened.
I have heard from others that journaling has been a powerful tool of mourning, in being able to pour out the emotions and feelings of experiences onto paper. I have not kept consistent journals in my own life, but I know many, many people who have had incredible healing experiences with emptying onto the pages of their journals and in being able to connect with their own real self through that endeavor.
Another experience that is akin to journaling that helps bring us to and through the mourning process is to write down a single word—just one word—throughout the day that reflects the emotions of what we’re experiencing in that very moment. It is an exercise that helps us become present to our own experiences. It is a moment of connectedness to the experiences that we are having throughout our own day.
Many have described the peace of a type of meditative practice in connecting with their own self while doing house chores like washing the dishes, vacuuming, or doing laundry. In these moments, just going through the motions of the mundane can give us moments of self reflection where we are present with ourselves and connect to who and what we really are.
Being present as Jesus Christ was present is the essence of mourning. Many meditative practices have us take a few moments in silence to feel our heart beating or to hear our lungs breathing. The automatic rhythmic patterns of our own bodies are powerful focal points to adjust our thoughts and find grace for our own self.
For Each Other
We live in very turbulent times. Everywhere around the world there is conflict. There is always an “other” that we seek to project our anger and villainy upon, to blame for how bad things are. Currently in the United States there is no scarcity of groups of people who have found unity in vilifying their fellowmen. Each side exists with their own list of authoritative reasons for why the “other” is “other” and should be punished, chastised, and set at variance. Our collective false selves have found unity in creating an “enemy” in the other.
At least to begin, we can start by looking for ways to share experiences with people that we ardently disagree with. The more we begin to see the other not as an object but as a human being, the closer we are to really seeing and hearing them.
More than 10 years ago I was politically active while I was living in Utah and going to school at BYU. I studied and majored in philosophy—specifically in the philosophy of the European Enlightenment and in the American adaptation of that philosophical age—so my ego considered itself pretty smart in the ways of early American political thought. This false self led me into many, many political arguments on various official and unofficial political pages on social media. I’ve written volumes upon volumes of political philosophy to combat the “evil” and “villainy” exhibited by those who disagreed with me, and I had all the sources to back it up to show just how right I was and how wrong everyone else was.
During this time, there was one gentleman in particular that seemed to have it out for me and I for him. We argued vehemently, passionately, verbosely, and we even used some rather colorful words to and about each other. I jokingly would state that I allowed myself one ad hominem attack a day on an unsuspecting but deserving “ignoramus,” and my target for many months was this man in particular. It was not unsuspected at all. He knew it. I knew it. It was a dance that we were willing to play.
After a particularly heated exchange one day, I had the impression to ask him to meet for lunch. I don’t remember if he had suggested it previously or whether I proposed it first, but it doesn’t matter. In either cause, his ego and my ego would not have been the source of that suggestion anyway. It was most certainly the divine seeing through the cracks (as per Leonard Cohen). When I proposed that I would pay for lunch, he was obviously extremely suspicious but he agreed to meet anyway.
Over that lunch I sat across the table from a man who I had harbored extreme anger towards for months. I had in many cases, and rather eloquently on some occasions, told this man where to go and how fast he should go there. He had done the same to me. We were justified in doing so, or so we thought, because “the other” person had started it. But as I sat there breaking bread with this man, something else entirely came over me and for that moment I saw his true self—I saw him as a child of God. In that moment I knew everything about my false self in relation to this man. In that moment, he saw the same in me. I admitted it. He admitted it.
I would like to say that the arguments effectively stopped on social media between the two of us. They didn’t. But they did soften. The accusations were fewer and far between, and we primarily argued beliefs and refrained from personal attacks.
We met again for lunch a second time a few months later. And we met again one last time before I moved from Utah.
This, again, softened the discourse on social media.
It has been nearly 10 years since those lunches and I am still friends with this man. In fact, even though we haven’t seen each other in person since then, I believe that we are good friends.
That said, the both of us have very, very different views about politics. We will still vehemently disagree with each other. We still “argue.” Mourning with another human being does not require that either of you believe what the other believes. But I love him. I would believe, if pressed, he could say the same for me. Unity, as Rohr said, is held together by love. We allow the other to do it differently than us.
The true self seeks to be present with the other. It is always looking for ways to heal chasms instead of opening wounds. Mourning is not an intellectual pursuit, but it is an experiential pursuit of real human connectedness that brings healing to ourselves and each other. We are not seeking to recruit others to our point of view, but, rather, we are seeking to connect with their humanity.
Through mourning for ourselves and each other, we waste and wear out our lives in looking for excuses and ways to humanize the other instead of dehumanizing them.
Mourning is a type of presentness, connectedness, and seeing ourselves and the other as they really are. It is only through the process of mourning that we can be comforted, because mourning requires giving up the false self to see God, ourselves, and each other in their true self. Through mourning we learn more deeply how to move beyond thinking about God to actually experiencing God at a deep and intimate level.
Our false self is the sum of our ego, beliefs, traditions, pains, traumas, and identities that inform us of a reality where there is no peace. The real self is our actual and eternal self, and it is the self that God created and that he sees and connects to through the cracks of our natural man. It is through the cracks where the light shines and where God touches us and transforms us. As we repent — i.e., learning to see God, ourselves, and each with new and fresh eyes — we begin to see a universally kind, benevolent, merciful, and loving God. In that experience with God we are transformed. We begin casting off the false self to reveal the true self from underneath.
Like King Lamoni’s father and Enos in the Book of Mormon, as we recognize and connect to our real self through the mourning process, we cannot help but also recognize and want to connect to the real self in our fellowmen and even our previously perceived “enemies.” It is through the process of mourning with ourselves and with each other wherein we find true and lasting healing.