WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Michael Crosby says all human relationships are based on power and energy.
Every relationship involves a power struggle and the desire to influence another person. The Christian aim is to interact with every person with care and compassion, but when dealing with difficult people, that is easier said than done.
Father Michael Crosby, a Capuchin Franciscan, said power dynamics are always present because everything is connected by physics and cosmology.
Once one becomes conscious of an encounter, the power dynamic, the need to influence the other person, kicks in. Everyone, he said, is "on the hunt" for something, from somebody else. This is true in marriages, parent/child relations, and among co-workers.
"All of life is based on power and energy. Therefore, all of our relationships involve power and energy. It depends on what I do with my heart that influences others in the relationship, either positively or negatively," said Crosby.
Biblically, the heart is the centre of our cognition, perceptions and thoughts. The heart is also the cauldron of feelings and emotions. The heartbeat is an energy source for life and for all actions. If the way of the heart leads us to be compassionate through our thinking, feelings and actions, we will have positive ways of relating with others.
"Silence is the secret energy of the heart. At the core of its heartbeat is the power of silence," said Crosby.
"When everything is booming around us, the tensions, the doorbells, the people at us, how can I be grounded in the silence? That's what we're trying to do here . . . to develop a silence, a contemplativeness, a sense of connectedness."
Crosby lives in a community with other friars in a downtown Milwaukee parish that serves the urban poor, homeless and marginalized. The author of 17 books, he shared excerpts from his 2008 book, The Paradox of Power: Moving from Control to Compassion in a Violent World.
Crosby led a weekend workshop, Nov. 18-20 at Providence Renewal Centre. He then conducted a one-day session for Catholic Social Services workers Nov. 21, and two public sessions Nov. 21 and 22.
Crosby said people believe their experiences, thoughts and feelings are separate from the world around them.
This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting people to their own personal desires and to affection for a few people nearest to them.
The spiritual task is to free oneself from this prison by widening the circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the beauty of all nature.
"Our Catholic faith tells us that God is revealed as a Trinity of equal relatedness. All creation, especially humans, will achieve its fullness when all persons are able to have equal access to all the resources that are available on earth as it is in the Trinity in heaven."
However, most societal norms are not based on equality. They are patriarchal or unbalanced. That leads toward negative forces such as coercion, exploitation, manipulation and domination.
Seldom is there a hierarchy at the service of everyone, he said.
Crosby points out that the goal of Christians is to treat everyone as equals and to direct their force and energy towards the positive.