Weekly Message from T. J.

Being a Jerk

“Use your feelings.”

This is what a great teacher of a galaxy far, far away said to his disciple, Obi-Wan. Today, Yoda’s words seem to be taking on a powerful dimension. But this is a problem. Yoda had some habits that might make us question his judgment. He liked to ransack people’s belongings for food. He was known to whack people with staffs if he didn’t like what they were doing. And he said things that sounded a little mushy for a seasoned veteran of an intergalactic war. But the problem with using our feelings now goes deeper than that.

In some therapeutic settings, clinicians and practitioners find that many folks lack the skills or ability to give a name to what they are feeling. One simple therapeutic technique is to use this sentence in conversation: “When you _(another’s action)_, I feel _(speaker’s feeling)_. The idea is to say something like, “When you lie, I feel betrayed.” Of course this sometimes devolves into, “When you act like a jerk, I feel like you are a jerk.” But we are only human. Besides many of us might watch a tiny green Jedi pillaging our knapsack and surmise rightly that he is a jerk.

And friends, there are a lot of jerks around these days, I know. Over just the past four days, as we watch the number of COVID-19 infections rise on the island, we see reports of people behaving in ways many of us find unthinkable. And make no mistake about it, if you think someone else is being a jerk, they’re probably telling their friends about how much of a jerk you are, too. I know some people who have been moved nearly to fighting with people in public, something they never thought they would consider in their life.

A friend of mine had a conversation with his father recently. It was about whether his father who has contracted COVID-19 wants to be on a ventilator and for how long. They can’t see each other physically, so all of this conversation is over the phone. And the feeling that rises when a parent and a child must have this conversation is one that asks, “Should a jerk be allowed to bring this kind of ruin upon a family because they want to go on being a jerk?” I don’t have to search very hard in my feelings to know what I think.

But I find that stories like this don’t require me so much to use my feelings as they are using my feelings up. I find that some things that used to be important seem tiny now. But what about the reverse? What about the things that used to seem small and inconsequential? What about the full moonlight bouncing on clouds? What about passing old friends in the store at a safe distance, like masked bandits? And what about a call to talk about nothing at all that seems somehow to be all that matters? At the risk of sounding like a jerk, I think if I’m going to use my feelings, I’m going to use them for that.

Many blessings of health and safety, my friends.

Rev. T. J.

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