An invitation into fullest humanity.
by Hayne Steen, MAMFT
One of the greatest gifts we can offer one another is permission to be fully human.
Permission to be fully human is simply permission to let our guard down, to allow another person to enter into the mess with us, to risk allowing someone to feel with us.
This is probably why I am such a fan of the work of counseling and spiritual direction. Both are deeply committed to coming around an individual to restore someone to their truest nature.
Unfortunately, many people may never have an opportunity to experience this kind of full living. Why? I suspect that a toxic form of shame gets in the way.
There are two kinds of shame;
(1) Healthy shame reminds us that we are human. We need to feel this. It is a much needed reminder that we are not God. It is lets us know that we are finite and possess the ability to make mistakes. Healthy shame allows us to feel guilt and therefore seek out forgiveness. Heathy shame equips us to cultivate community around us and to ask for help.
(2) Toxic shame, on the other hand, seeks to rob us of our humanity and the healing influences that we all need. It reinforces lies about who you really are. Not that you MADE a mistake, but that you ARE a mistake. Toxic shame drives us into deeper isolation. Toxic shame can leave us desperately lonely.
"In a world that screams negativity about dependency and glorifies self-sufficiency, loneliness is the feeling that we work hardest to avoid. The irony is that the more we work to avoid it, the more it occurs. And the more we work to hide it, the more we miss out on life." -Chip Dodd
There is another way...it's called "Ubuntu".
"In certain regions of South Africa, when someone does something wrong, he is taken to the center of the village and surrounded by his tribe for two days while they speak of all the good he has done. They believe each person is good, yet sometimes we make mistakes, which is really a cry for help. They unite in this ritual to encourage the person to reconnect with his true nature. The belief is that unity and affirmation have more power to change behavior than shame and punishment. This is known as Ubuntu - humanity towards one another." -Unknown
It occurs to me, even now, Jesus is God's dynamic expression of Ubuntu to a hurting world. Jesus, in his fullest humanity, shows us the way to our own fullest humanity. His invitation? "Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it (Matthew 11:28 MSG)." Jesus came to show us how to be fully human while living in such a tragic place. He restores us into our truest identity, "beloved".
As ubuntu restores us to our truest identity, it also restores us to one another. Everyone needs a healing community. Ultimately, it restores us to the Source of all love, all mercy, all hope, and all wisdom. Now and forever more.
What if we could begin to adopt this ancient communal practice of restoring one another into wholeness?
This communal expression of restoration seems one of the purposes of family and friendship and faith as I am understanding them. We need a healing community around us to remind us who we are.
On many occasions, Jesus invites raw and unfiltered feedback from his closest friends. It's as if he invites his own community to practice Ubuntu with him, to speak to the essential nature of his truest identity. Jesus is not just exporting his humanity. He opens himself up to receive it as well.
- "Who do people say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13)
- "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)
- "Why are you looking for me?" (Luke 2:49)
- "Why are you trying to kill me?" (John 7:19)
- "Have I been with you so long and still you do not know me? (John 14:9)
- "Do you love me?" (John 21:16)
This image of Ubuntu may be why I have loved the familiar beach scene where Jesus gathers his disciples for breakfast after a handful of major failures on their part. We are familiar with the last supper. This is the last breakfast. This is the last time Jesus will be with them in this way and on this particular morning, Jesus zeroes in on his dear friend Peter. Of all the things Jesus could do with these last few moments together, Jesus offers Peter something akin to Ubuntu. Jesus gathers his closest friends around a meal to offer Peter his full humanity back.
This is how I imagine the flow of that morning...
Little does Peter know that Jesus has gathered them for a meal with Ubuntu on his mind. Jesus has a fire blazing. Fish are already sizzling. The necessary space has been made for being together. One by one, the disciples gather in a circle around that fire, around a delicious meal, and more specifically they gather around Jesus and Peter.
When the time is right, Jesus breaks the silence...
Jesus: Peter, do you love me? (3x)
Peter: Yes, Lord, you know I do. (3x)
Jesus: Then practice Ubuntu. (i.e. feed my lambs, feed my sheep) (3x)
Jesus asks Peter the question three times, inviting Peter into this rhythm of Ubuntu. We don't just restore one another once. We offer it over and over and over again. We receive it over and over and over again.
"One African proverb states, “Ubuntu ungamuntu ngabanye abantu.” People are people through other people. In other words we need each other to be fully human and alive. It is in our interaction with others that our humanness flourishes. Our humanness at its core is good and positive, and through discovering this in ourselves we act in a way that reflects these truths." -John Kehoe
We know that after Jesus was crucified, the disciples made the decision to gather in a home and essentially commit themselves to a season of Ubuntu marked by sharing meals, listening for God, and remembering who they are. Those were moments marked by learning to rest in their truest identity. Out of that, thousands were drawn in.
People who rest in their truest identity are among the most attractive people on the planet. They are the ones who orient their lives around cultivating healing communities. It is no wonder that we are captivated by individuals who embody Ubuntu.
"Nelson Mandela is the embodiment of Ubuntu and has spoken of it often, though the term, not familiar to western ears, has gone unnoticed. He dedicated himself to the cause of his people and never stopped struggling to free the South African blacks from Apartheid. In 1993, after serving twenty-seven years in prison, he was released, and within a year was the first black President of South Africa. There was no bitterness or resentment from his years in prison, only wisdom, patience and compassion. No other leader could have unified the new country. He is an iconic figure and will be remembered, respected and admired not only by us and our children, but by our children’s children. Such is his legacy." -John Kehoe
Nelson Mandela rescued a nation from its collective shame by lifting up a call to practicing Ubuntu. Jesus continues to rescue a world from its collective shame by lifting us into a relationship with the God of our truest identity.
Questions for further consideration:
1. How might you (in the internal tribe of who your are - i.e. parts/much-ness/many-ness) explore offering Ubuntu to yourself?
2. How might you cultivate a community of others around you who are committed to offering one another Ubuntu?
3. Who might be hardest for you to offer Ubuntu? Sit with this for a few minutes. What emotions surface?
4. When have you experienced subtle hints of Ubuntu with friends, family, or God? What did/does that feel like or stir up in you?
5. When you imagine a rhythm of Ubuntu being more present in your life, what is different about you? What is different about your community?
A GROUP FOR GUYS
Every guy needs a TRIBE.
Dates: Start anytime for 16 consecutive weeks
Times: Thursdays @ 5:30-7:30pm
TRIBE is open to 10 men at a time. We currently have one more seat available with a waiting list forming.
TRIBE is extremely affordable at just $35 per session with a financial commitment to 16 consecutive weeks. Group members may pay for the 16 weeks up front to receive a $60 discount or commit to pay $35 on a weekly basis.
How do I join? Email Hayne Steen to set up a phone consult.
*Individual therapy with Hayne is also available at normal practice rates.
FOR CHURCHES & SCHOOLS
Pass this along to a church or school who you think might appreciate connecting with any of these resources.
Noticing & Navigating Our Way To Teens In Crisis
Contemplative Parenting in the Digital Age