Sunday, May 15, 2011


In a world of celebrity worship, religious hucksters and grandstanding politicians, can we anymore find real people?

WHAT IS REAL? In a world of unprecedented marketplace craftiness, celebrity worship, grandstanding politicians, religious hucksters, go-along bobble-headedness, and routine petty pretending, I appreciate encountering real people. 

A few years ago, I started a short list of things I observe in what seems to me to be "real" in people.  These are things that seem to me to reveal what in The Velveteen Rabbit is described as “real.” It's an incomplete list, a rough  first draft in the process.  But it is one thing that helps beat back the faux-people cynicism that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me:

NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. Real people are not always right…and can admit it. They admit it to themselves and then to others. Though they may initially assert their rightness in absolute terms and at the top of their lungs, when they discover they are mistaken or not completely correct, they accept the gift of humility.

FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING. Real people live close to forgiveness. That is, they know the value of being forgiven and of being forgiving. They realize that they and others are fallen, frail, faulty. Forgiveness is not an infrequent challenge for them. And it is just that: a genuine challenge that is made possible by grace.

ADDRESSING PRIDE. Real people are in touch with their pride. They know they possess it to a greater or lesser degree. They know that it does not just disappear because they have transcendent spiritual experiences. They learn to recognize and set aside what the old preachers used to name as the pride of race, place, face, and grace.

LOSING AND GAINING. Real people lose…and somehow gain from the experience. They win some. As often, they lose. Although they are as up for challenges as anyone, at some point, winning, getting ahead, one-upsmanship, acquisitional comparisons, etc. ceases to be the end-game.

LIVING THE QUESTIONS. Real people have unanswered questions…and they live them. They do not, or no longer, have their world tied down in neat compartments or the universe summed up in foregone conclusions. They recognize life as dynamic and seek to participate in the ongoing discovery of its mysteries.

NOT SELF-SUFFICIENT. Real people are not self-sufficient. They learn to ask for help and are given the grace to gratefully accept it. And they see value in helping others. They count on friends and need confidants. They recognize the interdependence of life. They move toward neighborliness and healthy dependency.

WALKING WITH A LIMP. Real people know real pain. It conditions them deeply but does not define them. Like pride and anger, they learn to be in touch with their pain. It softens their assessment of themselves, others, and the world. They may move into the future with a limp, but, like Jacob, they also know grace as a constant companion. They may even become wounded healers.

FAITH AND GRACE. Real people don’t wear their faith as a badge…they pray and worship because their lives depend on it. They are not into religious performance or do-goodism. They are into meaning and relationship. Faith is the buoy, compass, and beacon amid continuous change and challenge. Faith grows them toward being fully human, toward wholeness, toward genuine community. In short, it makes them real.

SEEING TO THE HEART. Real people look you in the eye…and somehow see to the heart.


  1. Kathy Fryman8:11 AM

    I'll be keeping a copy of this, John. I'll add it to my file of "Truth and Wisdom" that I keep for the girls. Thank you!

  2. Thanks Rev. Hay. You might be interested that a few years back I started having discussions with a Theology-Psychology class I teach about points of comparison between the rabbit and boy's relationship and the ideas in Martin Buber's I-Thou - comparison between I-It Relatedness. I have yet to summarize "our" lists from this comparison - but had connections with your insight here!

    Thanks for sharing this!


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