In my work here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative, I meet a lot of good-intentioned people who want to make the world a better place. It is truly a blessing to meet people from all faiths and spiritual paths that are passionate about creating a more harmonious world.
"What My Path Teaches..."
One thing I’ve noticed is that when people are explaining how they came to be called to this work they often cite their faith or spiritual path. Some feel the need to do so in great detail by quoting scripture, talking about the practices they engage in, both personally and with their groups, and by recounting many of the things that their teachers, priests, or spiritual leaders have said.
This is both normal and natural. People not only want to be good but they also want to be seen as good and show how they got there.
Leading With Our Humanity
I have no problem with this kind of show and tell within the context of my workshops. In fact, I encourage it. However, I always point out that when it is time to build bridges between two or more ideological camps, we must be willing to set our particular theology or teaching aside and lead with our humanity.
We may have gotten to where we are because of our faith or spiritual practices, but, when interacting with others who do not share our tradition, it can be off-putting to be constantly quoting something that is foreign to them.
Instead, I encourage people to lead with the fruits of their faith, i.e. their kindness, compassion, friendship, equanimity, tranquility, and care, to name a few.
The Dalai Lama and Mr. Rogers are great examples of how we can effectively lead with our humanity.
Fred Rogers hosted a children’s TV show for years that was deeply informed by his Christian faith, but he did not use the show to evangelize. Rather, he was an ambassador by consistently showcasing the fruits of his faith, both on and off the screen.
Similarly, his holiness the Dalai Lama is much better known for his emphasis on compassion, kindness, and tackling destructive emotions, such as anger and hatred, than he is for teaching the world about Buddhism. I saw him speak many years ago to a crowd of five thousand people and he was not concerned about teaching Buddhism at all, rather, he focused on improving relations between people.
Nurturing the Seeds of Goodness
After interacting with people of all faiths, people of no faith, and everyone in between for the last several years, I am more certain than ever about something I wrote in my new book, namely that:
“The seeds of care and empathy are built into every human being and a variety of soils and fertilizers will allow those same seeds to grow and flourish.”
Based on that metaphor, it is important to remember that when a gardener shows off his or her garden, the focus is on the lovely trees and flowers, not on the seeds, soil, water, and weed management that facilitated their growth.
I can tell you from experience, that there are no better ambassadors for their faiths and spiritual traditions than those who are able to lead with the fruits of their labor and appeal to our shared humanity. When people encounter others who are generous, kind, forgiving, and understanding, only to later find out what faith or spiritual tradition they belong to, it has the potential to change their worldview for the better.
Rev. Gudjon Bergmann
Founder and Lead Educator at Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Author of Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides
Ideas that promote social harmony and bridge-building across divides.
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Our Mission and Primary Goal
Our mission is to train and support people who want to do good in the world. We do this by providing access to strategies, methods, and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. Our primary goal is to help others create harmony in diverse communities.
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Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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