When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. And after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
You know, as I allow my spirit to still and my mind to quiet into the honoring space created by these beatitudes, I am actually able to notice the absence of something else: comparison. This post-conventional poem employs no comparison. The conditions that are named and the circumstances that are honored are not compared to anything—not even to each other. Each simple verse names a pain. Each sentence honors a post-conventional reality, and not one word is given to comparing. The poor-in-spirit are not compared to the mourning. There are no degrees of meekness or persecution offered. No qualifications for the pure in heart nor requirements for peacemakers are provided. In the same way that these direct and simple verses invite me to face the parts of my life that are beyond convention and honor them in spaces that exist beyond words, they also declare that such realities are beyond comparison. Not every experience can be divided and organized. There are parts of this life that can’t be rationalized and explained. Determining the cause or assigning blame can’t always make it better. Sometimes, we can’t categorize and choose our way out.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t try. In fact, I try a lot.
If I can compare my pain to your pain, I can diminish it. I can convince myself that pain exists on a scale and that one of us is suffering more than the other—thereby diminishing either your pain or my own. If I contrast your grief to my grief, I can deny it. I can convince myself that grief can be categorized and that one of us is truly experiencing grief while the other is not—thereby denying your grief or my own. If I can hold the persecution of someone I love up next to the persecution of my enemy, I can disassociate from it. I can convince myself that persecution can be qualified and even justified. But that’s not what these beatitudes do.
These verses do not comparison shop.
None of the circumstances are held higher than the other. No condition is described as more of a burden. No emotional state is treated as though it is more holy. No disruption is ridiculed as less than. There is no diminishing, no explaining, and no blaming. These beatitudes stand in opposition to my ability to spin. These verses upend the alternative worlds I so dedicate myself to creating in an attempt to avoid facing realities that exist beyond convention, beyond words, and beyond comparison. They declare that when we are in such spaces—we just are.
Name it. Honor it. Let it be.
Perhaps that is the broken-hearted pulse these beatitudes resuscitate. In my own broken heart, I know that—I feel it. I know that love and peace and mercy can’t actually be measured. I recognize that there are no true metrics for grief or loss or trauma. I know that naming and honoring the suffering of one does not invalidate the suffering of another. There are parts of life—parts of existence—which simply cannot be compared to anything else.
They just are.
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