Forum: How we square self-worth with our part in world’s woes

Seeing our responsibility for what’s broken isn’t about shame but accepting truth as a conviction.

Dan Hazen

Dan Hazen

By Dan Hazen / Herald Forum

It was below freezing outside, so of course the uninsulated, unheated prayer hut was too. As the fire began to warm the small space, I noticed my visible breath joining with the rising smoke from the incense burner. They blended and merged, indistinguishable.

Many faiths, including branches of my own, utilize incense in prayer. For some, it’s an offering. For others, a metaphor for prayers rising to the heavens. I was captured by the idea of my breath mingling with these “rising prayers.”

Ice crystals formed intricate patterns on the window, one of which was shaped like a tiny Douglas fir. When I adjusted my line of sight through the window and squinted slightly, it merged perfectly with the real trees in the distance. A tiny, frigid addition to the horizon.

Seeing the link between my breath and The Holy was easy. Superimposing the beauty of an ice crystal right in front of me on to the beauty of a forest far beyond was easy. These upward links are natural and joyful. But harder to see, easier to avoid, yet just as natural are the thoughts that pull downward. Our selfish thoughts (tiny, like an ice crystal), and our bigotries (wispy as smoke) don’t connect in our minds with “big” things like the cringe-worthy selfishness of rich celebrities and the glaring meanness of politicians. It doesn’t occur to us that these are the same, that they interlock and blend; that “we” are “them.”

I hear a lot of talk about worthiness and self-esteem. We are putting a lot of effort into eliminating shame from the human experience. The phrase “I am enough” has gained a lot of traction in recent times. But I don’t hear a lot of apologies or confessions, and yet someone must be responsible for what we all agree is a very troubled planet.

How can this be?

The image comes to mind of a second-grade classroom filled with stunned students and a stern, hands-on-hips teacher standing before them. “Someone is responsible for the broken window!” she says. “Now, who did this?”


Some days I feel physically overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of brokenness in our world. From the human suffering in my neighborhood, to the human suffering in the Middle East, I sort of fall into a stunned silence before the question, “Who did this?” In part, because I truly don’t know. The corporations? The government? The Jews? The liberals? Trump?

But also in part because I do know. It’s me. I broke the window.

Like you, my friends, I am innerved in systems. Physical: Every day that I eat, something else must die. Economic: To survive, I must engage in at least some exploitive commerce. Political: Even maintaining independence has an impact on my neighbors. Religious, social, you name it, I’m part of the problem. I may not have actually thrown the rock that did it, but it might just as well have been me.

Confessing this produces a burning humility in me. Not shame. Not guilt or anything toxic. It stings, but it’s kind of a welcome sting, because it’s true, and from truth springs peace. Blessed are the are poor in spirit after all.

Dan Hazen is the community pastor at Allen Creek Community Church in Marysville.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at or call him at 425-339-3466.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Saturday, July 20

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Scott Spahr, Generation Engineering Manager at Snohomish County PUD, points to a dial indicating 4 megawatts of power production from one of two Francis turbine units at the Henry M. Jackson Powerhouse on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, near Sultan, Washington. Some of the water that passes through units 3 and 4 — the two Francis turbines — is diverted to Lake Chaplain, which supplies water to Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Amber King best suited for PUD’s 2nd District seat

Among three solid candidates, King’s knowledge of utilities and contracts will serve ratepayers well.

From the Publisher: The Herald’s team is committed to readers

I’m returning as publisher to aid The Herald during its transition and continue its 123-year legacy.

Comment: We need to think hard on political discourse

The attempt on Donald Trump’s life should bring reflection on how we respond to others’ beliefs.

Comment: Vote yes to bring power of Everett port across county

A countywide port district would offer the tools and funding to foster economic development and jobs.

Forum: Port of Everett’s Prop 1 adds bureaucracy and new tax

Its yes campaign claims jobs and projects, but its tax and authority will diminish local control.

Comment: Court’s rulings a win for citizens over regulators

The rulings regarding ‘Chevron deference’ and the SEC keep the three branches in their lanes.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, July 19

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Return Wagoner and Low to 39th Disrict seats

‘Workhorse’ Republicans, both have sponsored successful solution-oriented legislation in each chamber.

Schwab: Attempt on Trump’s life doesn’t require giving up

Those opposed to a second Trump term still are allowed to speak their minds and cast their votes.

Vote for more of Port of Everett’s projects by voting for Prop. 1

Letters and editorials are flying, both pro and con, on Proposition 1:… Continue reading

We need answers to questions about Alderwood mall shooting

I was deeply saddened reading the article about the memorial service for… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.