Jean Vanier (exerpt)


I have always wanted to write a book called “The Right to be a Rotter.”  A fairer title is perhaps, “The Right to be Oneself.”

            One of the great difficulties of community life is that we sometimes force people to be what they are not: We stick an ideal image on them to which they are obliged to conform. We then expect too much of them and are quick to judge or to label.

            If they don’t manage to live up to this image or ideal, then they become afraid they won’t be loved or that they will disappoint others.  So they feel obliged to hide behind a mask.  Sometimes they succeed in living up to the image; they are able to follow all the rules of community.  Superficially this may give them a feeling of being perfect, but this is an illusion. 

            In any case, community is not about perfect people.  It is about people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, love and hate.

            And community is the only earth in which each can grow without fear toward the liberation of the forces of love which are hidden in them.  But there can be growth only if we recognise the potential, and this will never unfold if we prevent people from discovering and accepting themselves as they are, with their gifts and their wounds.  They have the right to be rotters, to have their own dark places, and corners of envy and even hatred in their hearts.  These jealousies and insecurities are part of our wounded nature.  This is our reality.


>>Jean Vanier, originally from his book Community and Grwth (1989), reprinted in Jean Vanier: Essential Writings (Novalis, 2008).