The Russian doll is a good symbol Rich, but a relationship with the ‘social other’ is a difficult concept as there are individual persons who we find obnoxious, unpleasant, jealous etc.etc. It is coming to terms with this, that can be difficult. Especially when we realise that Jesus’s words to ‘love your neighbour’ have no caveats. There is also the paucity of the English language which only gives us one word for love, which seems to imply that one has to feel feelings of affection and warmth for people who disturb or upset us. This is not at all the case of course.

James speaks of the ‘other other’ who comes towards us with unconditional love, no conditions and endless forgiveness, despite our grave defects and brokenness. I think that when we become aware of our own woundedness and the fact that we are far from perfect, we are able to see that the ‘social other’ or the ‘individual person’ is in the same boat. This can be the beginning of compassion for the individual other, and this is perhaps also our own way to God. James constantly reminds us that the Gospels are an anthropology, about the recognition (or love or compassion) of and for the other.