How often do we give others the benefit of the doubt? Do we assume the innocent explanation or conclude the worst? Are we patient, or do we pounce at the very first mistake someone makes in trying to get their thoughts out? Do we search for the best in others, or do we protect ourselves in advance about the damage we fear may be inevitable by opening our hearts to trusting someone again?
Wouldn’t it be lovely to live in a world where everyone gave everyone else the benefit of the doubt? Where perceived offenses weren’t allowed to fester and grow? Where there was trust?
Consider this beautiful poem on friendship by Dinah Maria Craik. Isn’t this how we would like to make each other feel?
by Dinah Maria Craik
Oh, the comfort —
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person —
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
We don’t let just anyone see us vulnerable, hear our secret stories, watch us struggle. To most of the world, we carry a bit of a shield between them and our tender parts. But there are some few we trust to see the real person behind the mask. We must love those people very much to be so naked and exposed.
Because we need to lay those masks down sometimes, don’t we? We can’t live a life of posture. And so we seek out places where and people with whom we can relax and let down our hair, unafraid of judgment, unconcerned with being deemed eccentric. Perhaps to be part of nature, to rest among creation until we lose sight of where we stop and others begin.
In this poem, Mary Oliver takes us into her sacred space–the woods.
She must love us very much.
How I Go To the Woods
by Mary Oliver
Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way or praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.