This is the clever title of one of Parker Palmer’s books. The title suggests that we are all whole already, but it is hidden from us. Why is it hidden? How did that happen?
Usually it begins when we are children. We learn that how we are in our natural state is not always approved of by those we want and need love from, so we adapt by acting in ways that will get us love. This happens unconsciously and continues to get held in place and amplified unconsciously. Almost always, we enter into adulthood with this dividedness or mask or wounding that continues to be who we are in the world, until we decide to excavate our hearts and souls and find out who we really are.
Parker Palmer writes “My knowledge of the divided life comes from personal experience: I yearn to be whole, but dividedness often seems the easier choice. A ‘still, small voice’ speaks the truth about me, my work, or the world. I hear it and act as if I did not. I withhold a personal gift that might serve a good end or commit myself to a project that I do not really believe in. I keep silent on an issue I should address or actively break faith with one of my own convictions. I denied my inner darkness, giving it more power over me, or projected on to other people, creating enemies where none exist.
I pay a steep price when I live a divided life – feeling fraudulent, anxious about being found out, and depressed by the fact that I am denying my own self. The people around me pay a price as well, for now they walk on ground made unstable by my dividedness. How can I affirm another’s identity when I deny my own? How can I trust in others integrity when defy my own? A fault line runs down the middle of my life, and whatever it cracks open – divorcing my words and actions from the truth I hold within – things around me get shaky and start to fall apart.
- … Wholeness does not mean perfection: It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.
- …Dividedness is a personal pathology, but it becomes a problem for other people. It is a problem for students whose teachers ‘phone it in’ while taking cover behind their podiums and their power. It is a problem for patients whose doctors practice medical indifference, hiding behind a self-protective scientific facade. It is a problem for employees whose supervisors have personal handbooks where their hearts should be. It is a problem for citizens whose political leaders speak ‘with fork tongues.’
These particular stories will soon fade from the front page, but the story of the divided life will be in the news forever. Its drama is perennial, and its social costs are immense. The poet Rumi said it with ruthless candor 800 years ago: ‘If you were here unfaithfully with us/You’re causing terrible damage.’
- …But choosing wholeness, which sounds like a good thing, turns out to be risky business, making us vulnerable in ways we prefer to avoid.”
The first step in mending this dividedness is to admit ourselves that is exists. The second step is to start to notice how and when it shows up in our lives…is it at work or with a friend or when we are feeling less than inside? Having support in this exploration is imperative as well, as keeping in mind the words of Jesus:
“The Kingdom of God is inside/within you, not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me.”
Blessings and Love!