We are fascinated by the Great Wall of China. It is a massive undertaking. Whether it was ever effective is debatable. What we do know is that it was built to keep out an enemy. The enemy is now gone, but the wall remains.
How many more walls remain long after the perceived enemy is gone? We label a group an enemy. Sometimes that was reality at the time. Our survival and well-being were threatened. We stay behind our wall. The label enemy is still attached to the other in our psyche. We do not realize that the other has changed. Their attitude toward us may be apathy or even benevolence, but our attitude toward them is still enmity.
Where does this show up? It shows up in our immigration policies. It shows up in the post-war attitudes between nations often. It shows up in inter-racial relationships. It shows in personal relationships.
Defense mechanisms are justified, but too often they become our personal Great Walls. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” “Don’t ever let them see you sweat.” As legitimate as these sayings are, they come from an attitude of distrust and fear. We do not want to let our vulnerability show. We have been hurt. We do not want to be hurt again.
Henry Nouwen said “We can live in the house of love or we can live in the house of fear, but we cannot live in both.” How do we get from one house to the next? “Run, Forest, run!” The running developed Forest’s body. Eventually he decided to stop running. The reason for running was no longer there.
“Fearful is as fearful does.”
Can you tear down your wall? Can you stop running away? Can you move into the house of love?