John Butler challenges us to think, teaches us to respect others’ beliefs


    I was asked two weeks ago to prepare something to say about John Butler. For the past two weeks I have struggled with what to say. Finally I came to the realization this morning, that my first impression was correct.

    There are no words to describe John, and there are no means to say how important he is. The only way that I can really tell you how important John is, would be to ask you to take a deeper look into yourself. Dig down into your mind, your soul, your heart and look. John is there. You are here because of John, because John has touched you, because John has helped make you who you are today.

    Every lesson that John teaches us is done through great discussions. These lessons are not curriculum based, but rather changing with each individual person and situation. Learning from him is a special gift that many people are fortunate to have. His teaching style is unique. He would never tell us what to do, and at times that proved frustrating for many students who just wanted an answer. Rather, John would ask you to think of why you wanted to do it and challenge your thoughts and actions. He never gave us an easy out. He made us think, and that was no option. From a student’s point of view John was a refreshing member of the faculty. We all knew that he respected us and knowing that, we were empowered.

    As you begin to know John, you realize that John doesn’t speak English, John speaks metaphor, but the greatest lesson that John taught me never required a metaphor. John taught me that nothing in life happens without respect. We do not have to cooperate with others because we agree with them or because we are like them. Rather we work with others because we have a deeper understanding of God that calls us to do so. We understand that we are different. We look different. We sound different. We have different thoughts. We have different beliefs. John taught me to unite with others because we are alike in many ways and we can celebrate our differences, not by being tolerant of each other. For John, tolerance is not enough. John taught me that only when we respect each other do we make manifest the Glory of God. Only when we respect each other do we allow others to shine. Only when we respect each other are we a liberating force.

    John, your light shines bright in this world, and it is a beacon to all of us. You have taught many things to each one of us. You have challenged our very beings. You offer us a better way to live in this global community. Today and each day, I do my best. There are no words to express who you are or what you have given to each one of us. I hope that it is by our actions that you can see the differences you have made in our lives. I leave you with this quote by Marianne Williamson. If there is a way to describe who you are, what you do and what you believe, this quote would be it.

    “We were born to make manifest the Glory of God, within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in every one of us, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”