Living from the Center

Richard Rohr in his book, Everything Belongs, talks about living from your center vs. living from your circumference. The outside things that define us...our trappings...make up our circumference. This may be something easily defined--like our skin and the way it looks--or the things we define our identity by...political parties, causes, our favorite band, style of dress...

The center--our inner self--is more illusive.  I believe it is the part of us that hopes and dreams. The part that God connects with.
Rohr writes, "This is how our contemporary culture seems to look at it: Our culture no longer really values the inner journey, if it would be honest. In fact, we actively avoid and fear it. In most cases we no longer even have the tools to go inward because, we are enamored and entrapped in the outer self in the private edges of our private lives. In such a culture, “the center cannot hold,” at least for long."

Rohr continues...

"The overwhelming problem today is that people are creating and letting go of boundaries who have no hint of their own psychological or theological Center. Those who create their own boundaries often end up with hardened and defended edges, without permeability for others to move in or out.

They may become either racists afraid of the “not-me” or co-dependents manipulating the world to meet their love and security needs. Those who too easily let go of boundaries will seek their soul forever outside themselves: She will make me happy. I need him for my sense of self. This church is who I am.

Those who have firmed up their own edges too quickly without finding their essential Center will be the enemies of ecumenism, the enemies of forgiveness, the enemies of vulnerability, and peace-making between nations and classes. Those who let go of their edges too easily often pride themselves on their openness and tolerance. But even here there is both virtue and vice. The tolerance of the believer, rooted in God, is certainly the voice of wisdom; but the too quick tolerance of the skeptic, cheap liberalism, is largely meaningless, usually no more than a need to be liked or a need to be popular. The first is the authentic lover, the faith-based prophet, the grounded agent of change; the second is a “born yesterday” believer, the faddish New Ager. Unfortunately, the second is much more common on the American scene today, even in churches and social justice circles. We have our work to do.

The greatest gift of centered and surrendered people is that they know themselves as part of a much larger history, of a larger symbolic universe. In that sense, centered people are profoundly conservative, knowing that they only stand on the shoulders of their ancestors and will be another shoulder for the generation to come. Yet they are paradoxically open and reformist, because they have no private agendas and self-interest to protect. People who have learned to live from their Center where God reigns know which boundaries are worth maintaining and which can be surrendered. Both reflect an obedience. If you want a litmus test for truly centered people, that’s it: they are always free to obey a voice outside themselves.

Probably the most obvious indication of non-centered ec-centric people is that they are a pain to live with! Every ego-boundary must be defended, negotiated, glorified: My reputation, my nation, my job, my religion, and even my ball team are really all I have to tell myself that I am somebody."

Rohr encourages us to develop the discipline of pulling away and sitting in silence with God as a way to find and develop our center. I'm enamoured of the idea of finding something deeper than the edges.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall