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Barriers and Building Bridges
that one word more than half the trouble of the world is
are living in a divided world. Every day brings news of
the war of nations, of classes, or of economic groups. Self-interest,
fear, bitter memory, national pride is splitting the human
family into isolated fragments. Cooperation, which is the
world’s most urgent need, becomes increasingly difficult.
a world of isolated groups, eyeing each other with growing
suspicion over rising walls of misunderstanding, can only
be the product of individuals who do not know how to live
together. Selfishness, fear, resentment, pride, do not live
in the air. They live in men. They only move States because
they have the power to move us. We must look for the barriers
which separate nations and classes, first in ourselves and
our homes, and then in our daily contacts with those around
we do look for those barriers close at hand their existence
is evident enough. One man has described his home as “a
filling-station by day and a parking place at night. That
might stand as the classic description of thousands of home
to-day. They are places where a number of people live under
the same roof and feed at the same table, but hardly know
anything of what is going on under the surface of each other’s
lives. Husband and wife have been divided by all the accumulated
reticences of years. The children are walled off from their
parents by resentment of parental domination and lack of
understanding. The parents themselves are shut in by their
self-pity and exasperation at what seems the self-will and
thoughtlessness of their children. Brothers and sisters,
shy of one another, go each their own way.
the home the same story is carried on. At school the child
is too often afraid to tell his real difficulties to the
teacher. He is afraid of being laughed at or punished. In
the office men and women work together without getting to
know each other. Jealousy, fear, incompatibility split them
into cliques or leave one and another standing alone. In
the factory the ‘boss’ is a remote and unknown
being who only descends into the lives of the workpeople
when something is wrong.
are the raw materials of a divided world.
who do not know each other and have little inkling of each
other’s difficulties or aims cannot create a united
world. They are certain to misinterpret each other. Sooner
or later they will quarrel.
most frequent reason for our isolation is fear. It is fear
which makes us hide.
are afraid of many things. We fear the loss of reputation.
We think that if other people saw what we are really like
they would laugh at our mistakes and despise us for our
failures. So we cover up our mistakes and failures with
silence or self-excuse. We pose as confident, when we are
nothing of the kind. The face we present to the world is
really a mask.
are afraid in business. We are expecting the other man to
steal a march on us. So we work in the dark. We are not
going to give him the chance to get in first. We disguise
our intentions. And thus we help to create the atmosphere
of suspicion and mistrust in which the world lives.
are afraid of being found out and compelled to let go some
of the practices or some of our relationships. If our family
only knew--if our business associates or employers only
knew--there would have to be a change. We do not want to
change. We should hate to change. And so those little reticences
and petty deceptions begin and grow until we are living
two lives--the one other people see and the one we hope
they do not see!
trust, understanding, free and happy cooperation cannot
exist between people who are hiding from each other.
greatly need to come out into the open--to take off the
mask and drop the pose, and to be our real selves, honest
about our mistakes and sins, frank about our thoughts and
intentions, willing to let other people know us. Isolated,
secretive living is bad for the world and bad for us. It
not only builds barriers between us and those we live with,
but it shuts us in on ourselves and breeds the loneliness,
morbidity, repression, and distorted outlook from which
a great deal of our mental and spiritual sickness comes.
a man does come out into the open in all his relationships
with others, the effect is revolutionary. A journalist apologizes
to the assembled pressmen of another country for the bitterness
of his articles, and at once a door is opened to new understanding
between two nations. A statesman admits in an international
council that his country’s policy has been mistaken
and offers reconsideration of the issue, and immediately
a breath of fresh air blows through world affairs. The representative
of a large firm puts all his cards on the table before his
competitors, and a threatened price war is called off. A
father who has tried many ways of getting his daughter to
be frank comes off his pedestal and begins telling her of
some of his own difficulties. The prompt and unhesitating
response is a flood of confidences and the beginning of
a new relationship. Two brothers have long been careful
only to let each other see selected portions of their lives.
They discover that in this life-long game of hide-and-seek,
they have actually been fighting a lonely battle against
the same temptations; now they tell each other of their
victories and defeats.
are real people from a growing company of men and women
who are breaking down barriers and creating new relationships
by their simple honesty about themselves. They are prepared
to pocket their pride, risk their reputation, hazard their
material interests, for the sake of living in the open with
their fellows. They are creating a new atmosphere in every
community into which they go. They are breaking down the
barriers, and opening up the way--the way to a different
this different world we shall not only know each other;
we shall trust each other.
cannot work with other men satisfactorily unless you trust
them and they trust you. You will not trust them while you
suspect that they have an axe of their own to grind. They
will not trust you while you are holding on to anything
which you are not willing to yield up for the common good.
It is this holding on to our own private aims, our own private
interests, our own private possessions which splits up any
community. It divides nation or family into separate and
competing factions and individuals, who only hold together
so long as their interests do not clash.
belief in the other man’s disinterestedness is the
only basis on which men and women can live and work together
in an unbreakable fellowship. The real problem of life today
is to create trust.
for a moment an international conference, a meeting of employers
and employees, a church committee or just two people seeking
the settlement of a dispute, which each believes the other
to be entirely free from private aims, and concerned with
nothing but the common interest of both sides! What need
to say more? At that level the major problems of mankind
is not created by waiting for the other man. It begins to
form and grow around those who give themselves utterly to
other people. Jesus’ answer to a divided world was
to give the whole of Himself to others, and so to create
around Him a little community where trust and cooperation
had been generated by self-giving. That community--at first
only twelve men--was the growing point of the new world.
The living cells of the new world today will be companies
of men and women, in home, business, town, and nation, who
have learned to trust each other and live without barriers.
is no other solution. There is no other way by which the
creative love of God can get out into the world to form
a new trusting relationship between men, except through
a self giving like Christ’s.
must be like Christ’s; substitutes do not work. Many
of us give to other people, but we give “things”
and not “ourselves”. There are plenty of employers
who give their work people good wages and a bright welfare-centre,
but no personal interest and concern such as would establish
a real relationship of confidence. There are parents who
give their children a comfortable home and good education,
but keep themselves spiritually remote. There are lots of
us who give the money to meet all kinds of needs in other
people, but fail to meet their deepest need of friendship.
And when we do try to help others in their personal problems
we give them good advice from a slightly elevated pedestal,
instead of laying beside them our own deepest experiences
of God and sin, of victory and defeat, so that first they
lose their loneliness and then they begin to see, through
our confidences, how God deals with a need like theirs.
will certainly mean that our time and money, and our strength,
are entirely at the disposal of other people as God directs,
so that those others begin to realize that we shall withhold
nothing from them for selfish reasons, or because we shirk
the cost. One of the characteristics of Jesus was this complete
availability. But real self-giving will mean that we make
available to men more than our time and strength and possessions.
It will mean that we are prepared to share with them the
innermost core of our life--our temptations, our difficulties,
our sins, and discoveries of God--'if these can be used
to help them and bring them to God.
self-giving is not complete until no pride or fear, no pain
or shame, will prevent us giving all of ourselves to another
in his need.
sometimes say, 'Oh, but these things are too sacred to talk
about!' In all too many cases that is the defence of people
who have precious little to tell, and whose experience of
God is not vivid and joyful enough to make them want to
pass it on. In other cases it is a form of spiritual selfishness.
How should we have had the story of the Temptation in the
Wilderness, the glimpse into the disquieted soul of Jesus
as He saw the approaching end, or the most intimate words
of Gethsemane, unless Jesus had told His secrets to the
disciples? How could we have learned what God could do with
a man like Paul unless Paul himself had been willing to
tell, humbly and honestly, what he was like before God changed
him? We are under an unpayable debt to men like St. Augustine,
Brother Lawrence, John Wesley, and a great unnamed company
of men and women who have been willing to let us see, in
the inner history of their own souls, how God deals with
is self-giving at this level which establishes the deepest
and strongest personal relationships between men and women,
and it was on the basis of such relationships that Christ
proposed to build the new world. The fellowship thus created
was to be in the world what Paul described as 'a colony
of heaven,' a centre of civilizing power. This is the function
of the real Church. We are rather apt to confuse the Church
with the loose associations of men and women who happen
to worship in the same building, or meet each other in the
running of various organizations, but many of whom hardly
know each other's names and have little interchange beyond
remarks about the weather. These associations are not 'Churches.'
They are 'potential Churches,' and often have a nucleus
of men and women in real fellowship with each other. But
the living, functioning Church of Christ exists only where
men and women are really giving themselves to each other
in unreserved personal relationships.
is this kind of fellowship that the Christian is called
to create around him. Nothing less will save the world from
way of living, which breaks down barriers and builds up
trust, can be conveniently described in one word--Sharing.
can be defined as being honest with other people about yourself.
It means being willing (for God's purposes) to give the
whole of yourself to anyone. It does not mean telling everything
about yourself to everybody you meet. It does mean being
willing to tell anything to anyone--if God shows you that
your sharing can be useful in establishing a new and deeper
relationship, or in helping another person to find God.
sharing can be very costly. If some of us are to restore
the right relationship with those round us --perhaps a husband,
a wife, a child; perhaps those who work with or for us;
perhaps someone who attends the same Church--it will mean
facing crucifixion. To let them see what we are really like
will cost no less. And if we are going to let God take us
right into the lives of other people, with the love that
pours itself out to them, it will mean the Cross again.
To share Himself with the world meant that for
Christ. The price of redeeming relationships with men and
women is always the Cross.
has to be learnt. We cannot really make ourselves known
to others until we have been introduced to ourselves, and
one of the serious effects of our reserve and spiritual
isolation is that we have become strangers to our own souls.
God has to bring us right out into the light, where we can
see ourselves stripped of self-deception and face thee naked
truth about our actions, our thoughts and our motives.
of God's most effective ways of introducing us to ourselves
is to send us to another person, whom we can trust, to tell
them the whole truth about our lives as far as we know it.
Quite apart from the fact that it is a healthy and liberating
thing to unburden ourselves, the necessity of putting into
words to another person the hard facts about our sin makes
us see it more clearly and hate it more thoroughly. Besides
which, the other person will probably see things in us to
which we are blind, and will help us to see them. God has
given us this invaluable gift of fellowship as one of the
most effective means to real self-knowledge, penitence,
and new life and we lose something vital if we shrink from
the humiliating but liberating experience.
we are to go on being honest with others we must go on being
honest with ourselves. Life moves ahead and fresh discoveries
about ourselves have to be made, fresh difficulties faced,
or sins confessed. That is why we must seek frequent fellowship
of the kind in which we can talk over these discoveries
without reserve. If we cannot find this quality of fellowship
with several people, we can begin with one, so long as we
do not remain content with one.
of this kind is thoroughly wholesome if it is seen as a
means of keeping spiritually fit and free for God's use,
and if it issues in practical steps to put right what is
wrong. It keeps the system free from any accumulation of
is as we learn in this way to be honest with ourselves and
others, to take off the mask and drop the pose, to step
out from behind our reserve and pride, that we become citizens
of God's new world--men and women around whom a new honesty
and trust begins to grow.
we learn to share, each of us becomes a living cell in that