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Innate goodness of human beings a challenge to see

Paul Graves

Have you ever considered what “seeing with God’s eyes” might be like as you look at the world, or maybe another person? When I’ve used that imagery before, it is almost always in the context of looking outwardly, seeing life from a bigger, fuller perspective.

But how about seeing with God’s eyes as we look inwardly? What is there to see in a bigger, fuller perspective? For one thing, today’s nettlesome question: What if there is more to being human than we usually settle for?

I’ve sensed for years that when God looks deep inside each of us – God’s “very good” creation – God sees God. (If you aren’t having a touch of theological apoplexy at this moment, I hope you’ll keep reading.) Remember in Genesis 2:27-31, God created human beings and gave them their marching orders to tend and care for the Earth, because God “saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” The essence of God was implanted into every human, and it was “very good.”

So when God looks at each human being human, God sees something of God in each of us. A pretty cool deal, don’t you think? Ah, if we only believed that deal every day.

I despair every time I read of a preacher who speaks of persons being born sinful, or of anyone who swallows that (at best) incomplete understanding of being human. We were born of God, and if that birth is “very good,” our essence is not evil but “very good.”

But it’s too good to be true for most of us. We’ve been brainwashed to believe the worst of ourselves and others first. We can’t be “good” without some stick ready to prod us into that condition. Or so too much religion, and too much life experience, wants us to believe.

I recently came upon a small but powerful book by retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu called “Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference.” What a powerful faith statement by them in the face of all the tragedy they’ve lived and seen in South Africa!

A key quote: “We know all too well the cruelties, hurts and hatreds that poison life on our planet. But … we know that the catalogue of injuries that we can and do inflict on one another is not the whole story of humanity, not by a long measure. We are indeed made for something more. We are made for goodness.”

Each chapter ends with a beautiful prayer – by God – to each of us who reads it. In the last chapter, “Seeing With God’s Eyes,” God says to you and me: “You are my child, my beloved. With you, I am well pleased. Stand beside me and see yourself, borrow my eyes so you can see perfectly.

“When you look with my eyes, then you will see that the wrong you have done and the good left undone … are not the whole story of you. You are not defined by what you did not achieve. Your worth is not determined by success.

“You were priceless before you drew your first breath, beautiful before dress or artifice. Good at the core … It only matters that you live as I have made you. It only matters that you are made for me, made like me. Made for goodness.”

Why – oh why – can we not believe this in the deepest parts of us? We let our fears, our drives to be something other than our true selves, push that goodness away. Why are we afraid of our innate goodness?

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at
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