Monday, May 22, 2017

I Honor You

"Respect"
- in my meditation garden -

Over this past weekend I had the great privilege of officiating at the wedding of a wonderful young couple who are friends of mine. The entire ceremony was exceptionally touching and I was moved to tears when the bride and groom looked at one another while exchanging wedding rings, saying:

With all that I am and all that I have,
I honor you

I’ve been thinking about why that one simple phrase was so very striking to me and realized that I was probably so moved by it because I rarely if ever hear people say words like that to one another nowadays, to say “I honor” you is about as counter-cultural as you can get in our contemporary society.

I listen to the news, browse the social media or hear conversations in restaurants and stores and I hear plenty of people telling others how much they dishonor or disdain them. I hear people mocking others, judging, condemning and attacking. I can barely connect to the internet before drowning in a sea of hate speech. So, to hear the words “I honor you” was so refreshingly beautiful as to move me to tears.

The other thing that struck me about that one little phrase was the use of the word “all” as the bride and groom gave each other rings and pledged to “honor” one another with all they are and all they have.

I suppose that, from time to time, many of us may show respect or express affection for others but so often this respect is very “conditional.”  Many people will say kind words or do good things for others if they feel the other has “earned” their respect. People also “honor”” others because they think that they will eventually be able to “cash-in” on their good deeds or kind words. They do good for another with the prospect that the other will eventually return the favor, they are kind to others because this is a good way to “network” in the ongoing struggle up the proverbial ladder of success. 

But that’s not what I heard at that beautiful wedding the other day when the bride and groom pledged that they would honor one another all the time, without counting the cost - in good times and in bad, in success and failure, when the other person seemed worthy of honor and respect and even when the other person seemed unworthy.

As I see it, “honoring one another always,” may indeed be a key spiritual discipline not only to be practiced by a bride and groom but by any one of us on any sort of spiritual path. Imagine what our world might look like if we might all be guided by the principle of honoring one another with all we are and all we have, all the time - honoring those we like and respecting those with whom we disagree, honoring our spouses, children and friends and also honoring foreigners, enemies and those who do us wrong, honoring the rich and famous and honoring the poor and defenseless?

In one of his epistles, Saint Paul writes to a newly emerging church and admonishes them for judging and competing with one another. He tells them that on a spiritual path, there is only way way to win the prize:

Love one another with mutual affection;
outdo one another in showing honor.

What a radically counter-cultural concept” - the person who honors others the most is the “big winner” in life.

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