So God created humankind in God’s own image, in the image of God they were created; male and female God created them. – Genesis 1:27
I love the movie Pretty Woman, and I particularly love the insight that Vivian Ward shares with her client, Edward Lewis, when he inquires as to how she got into the “oldest profession.” Her transparently honest answer is one that I think many of us could echo, “It’s just easier to believe the bad stuff.” And it doesn’t matter if you believe the “bad stuff” about yourself or if you believe the “bad stuff” about others. Yes, it would seem that many of us believe the bad stuff.
Internalizing bad thoughts about ourselves and others causes us to live our lives in broken places. When we indulge in self-hatred we risk falling into depression and self-destructive behaviors and separate from our own best selves. When we project hatred onto others we cause the destruction of relationships—sometimes our closest relationships with family and friends. It is also why we find ourselves, at this time in history, at vitriolic odds with people in our communities, states and nation and is ultimately the cause of destructive ideas, such as racism, homophobia, and thoughts and actions that lead to violence and war.
The interesting thing about all of this is that it runs counter to what we have heard across the centuries from our wise women and men. It runs counter to what all the benevolent faith traditions teach us. It is certainly the case of my own faith tradition, the Judeo-Christian tradition. Our ancient story of creation tells us that we are created in the “image of God.” That story reminds us that God looks upon creation and blesses all of creation, including all of us, you and me, our friends and our enemies, and calls us “good.”
I wonder, then, why it is that we gravitate to the place of believing the “bad stuff.” Perhaps it is because seeing the good in others actually takes work and requires risk. It requires first believing that one’s own essence is essentially good and that the essence of others is essentially good, even when behavior is bad. It also requires risking feelings and sometimes one’s life in order to see the goodness in someone, particularly if that someone has harmed you or someone you love. In short, it is easier to believe the bad stuff.
But what if we didn’t?
What if we believed the good stuff instead, that we are created in the image of God, that we are good? What a difference it might make, in you, in me and in our world.
Holy One, help me to hear again that you look upon all of your creation and call us good. Amen.