I’m just back from having given a Day of Reflection today for the Twin Cities Ignatian Volunteer Corp. For those not familiar with the organization, the IVC (in the words of its mission) “provides mature men and women the opportunity to serve the needs of people who are poor, to work for a more just society, and to grow deeper in Christian faith by reflecting and praying in the Ignatian tradition.” IVC volunteers are placed in prisons, schools, and other sites where they provide a variety of services.
Because their theme for the year is Ignatian Spirituality and Social Justice, and given the current climate in the Twin Cities and other parts of the United States, I spent some time in the morning talking about “othering,” a term used to refer to the process by which individuals and society view and label people who are different in a way that devalues them. Othering comes in many forms, and appears as racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious and ethnic hatred, and so on. (Later in our time together, I spoke about some of the basic elements of the Catholic social tradition that help combat this tendency to “other” others.)
After my talk on othering, I invited the participants to take some time examining their own attitudes toward those who are not like them. I thought I’d share the questions I asked them to consider; you may find them useful to reflect on.
How do I define myself?
What kind of categories or groupings do I put myself in?
In what ways do those categories exclude others?
How do I define others?
What are the bases on which I “other” others?
Are there certain peoples who I view as “not me” in ways that makes it difficult for me to open my heart to them?