By Bren Dubay
One side pitted against another side. No conversation, only shouting. Ideology making dialogue impossible. What is the fruit of all this divisiveness?
An often-repeated quote of Mother Teresa is “the fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.”
Divisiveness is producing rotten fruit. Is that the fruit we want to serve ourselves, our children or to others? Is that the life we want to live? Mother Teresa offers a better way.
What is silence? Can one truly get away from one’s own inner dialogue? There may be a way over time. Practice silence — listen to the inner dialogue, but do not feed it. Observe your thoughts, but do not engage them. If my inner dialogue is a rehearsal for what I am going to say to the person with whom I vehemently disagree the next time I see her, hear it and let it go. If my inner dialogue is making a list of what I need to get done today, watch it and let it go. If it is dwelling on some worry or regret, nod in acknowledgement, but do not engage the worry or regret. I am seeking to listen to something much bigger and much more profound than my arguments with others, my to do list and my worries and regrets. Silence requires listening. Listening requires practice before one hears on a deeper level, before one “hears” the silence.
What is prayer begat by silence? Often it is less wordy because it is more about listening and stillness than speaking and producing.
How does prayer bear the fruit of faith? Is it not true that one can pray but lack faith? There are two steps listed before faith — silence and prayer. Return to them, but also look ahead to the next fruit — love. Often one recognizes the depth of her faith by the love she gives.
What is love? Love is willing the good of the other for the sake of the other. Love is selfless. Love does not expect something in return.
What is service born out of love? It is humble. It is in the small actions as well as in the more spectacular. It does not declare a faceless enemy and rail against it.
What is the peace that this kind of service brings? It is not utopia. It is not even euphoria. It is moving through life with a candle lit, “preaching” a quiet sermon by the way I sit, the way I stand, the way I hold things in my hand. It is preaching always and sometimes using words.
All the yelling going on is disconcerting. The division is heartbreaking. I am not so naïve to believe that all those who are worked up into a rage will stop and take the time to seek the fruits of which Mother Teresa spoke. But I hope sharing them in this Brief Thoughts will inspire, if only a few, to step out of the noise and the distractions and seek the silence that leads to peace.
This peace is not passive. Moving beyond the inner dialogue, learning to listen, to love, to serve takes time and practice. There was nothing passive about the work of Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. or scores of others. When our actions come out of a place of peace within, the fruit is not rotten. It is good.