If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?
—Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī
America’s social discourse can be pretty caustic these days. A few months ago, I read this quote on Silentium, one of the online ministries offered by a friend and colleague. I’ve been sitting with it and acknowledge how irritating I find all the corrosive dialogical rubbing going on around me. If that’s the “rub,” I have no desire to be polished.
So, what do I do with this idea? Why has it stuck around in my head and heart? I decided that a deeper dive into this quote might be a suitable Advent exploration, so I invite you to join me on this journey.
First, as a writer, I found myself thinking of how the words rub and polish have been used in our culture. We “rub people the wrong way” or “rub salt in their wounds.” That probably happened around a lot of Thanksgiving tables ten days ago.
Our habits and sayings can also “rub off” on others as we “rub elbows” with them. We could self-righteously hope that happened as we shared Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings with family members who have rubbed us the wrong way in the past—but have we stopped to wonder what others might hope rubs off on us?
Thinking more broadly, we “polished off” Thanksgiving’s abundance while almost a third of the world’s population doesn’t have adequate access to food. Many of us, for example, even here in America, might live in a food desert.
We use “spit and polish” to look our best. Unfortunately, by focusing our attention on such public personas, we often hide our deepest thoughts and truest feelings behind images that we believe are acceptable—polished!—on social media.
Yes, my mind went in lots of interesting directions, reflecting on these words—not unlike what happens when we spend time on social media. Now, to get a bit more focused, I wonder: What is the polishing for? Why would we want to be rubbed—and not “rubbed out”(!)?
I’ll share more on this next week, but for now, consider these questions: How well-polished do you consider yourself to be? Do you think you reflect God’s love in and through your life? How might Advent become a time of polishing your mirror so that you can better reflect God’s love?