Read a book representing the other. If you like reading non-fiction works, find an author with a point of view quite different from your own on a subject you care about. Set aside your judgement of the author’s opinion until you deeply consider the value and bits of truth that you find within it. Don’t let yourself argue against it until you understand what convinced the author to form his or her point of view. When you have managed to find at least some aspects of the work to appreciate, consider how this perspective might nuance your own views. If you like fiction, choose a good novel with a main character that you do not find particularly likeable, and then read it empathically, as if this character were someone coming into your life that you have a chance to befriend.

New perspectives on friends and family. Think of people near to you that you have trouble appreciating at the moment. How can you see them with fresh eyes? Imagine that you see them through the eyes of someone able to see more positively than you—perhaps even pray to see that person through God’s eyes. Consider questions like: What is delightful or unique about this person? What bothers me about this person and why does it bother me? Does my “concern” for him or her cloak a fear of my own? What is there about me that might trouble this person? Are there ways in which we’re different that I deny or disrespect? What if I accepted those differences as something invigorating and dynamic?

Look for missed opportunities for friendship/hospitality. Consider some possibilities for developing a new friendship. Or, together with your family, explore possibilities of people that you might invite show hospitality toward that you have resisted acting on because there is something about them that make you somehow uncomfortable.

Purging the myth of redemptive violence. Walter Wink describes how pervasive our training is in the “myth of redemptive violence.” He writes:

The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience– unto-death.

This myth of redemptive violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.

One of the things that convinced Wink that this mythic structure is so entirely pervasive in our culture was the fact that it formed the structure of nearly all children’s cartoons. Heroes and villains struggled until the moment when the hero finally (but, of course, only temporarily) vanquished his foes. The next few movies you watch (or books that you read), look for the presence of the myth of redemptive violence. What really saves the day in the end? Forgiveness, reconciliation and embrace? Or the domination of the sword?

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