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Loving Our Enemies. What a concept.

I hate to say it, but our country hasn’t historically been real big on love.  It hasn’t been part of our political or spiritual consciousness to cultivate love, kindness, and compassion.  In fact, many Americans seem to be more excited about our might and strength, our ability to “kick a _ _.”  Our country has a bad case of machismo.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  I often think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  When he was rallying the people to fight injustice and racism, he didn’t stir up the flames of anger and hatred by recounting the numbers of lynchings, rapes, or cross-burnings.  Amazingly, he preached about loving one’s enemies.  You may remember that a certain other notable figure did the same thing.  Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)  Almost two thousand years later, King preached, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is the hard thing we are being called to do.  Love isn’t just about easy love.  It’s easy to love our grandchildren or our partner or our God.  But that political candidate that turns your stomach?  Or those people who sicced attack dogs on the native people at Standing Rock?  Or rapists or child molesters?  Or people who abuse animals?  Loving the unlovable is hard work.  It’s really hard.  It takes real spiritual commitment, which is not something we’re terribly prone to in this particular nation.

But here’s the thing: Peace will not come to this world by hating those who are different. And, let’s face it, there will always be someone who is different, maybe even “bad.” But if we nurture seeds of hatred, at the very least it leads to a lack of peace within our own bodies, our own hearts.  And without peace in our hearts, how can we hope to have peace in our country, peace in our world?  Peace starts within.  Change starts within.

Recently I saw a video of some African Americans in Dallas who were staging a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.  On the other side of the street, a group of counter-protesters started to gather.  Some police were there as well.  Among these three divergent groups, there was the potential for a terrible violent clash.  But then… a miracle happened.  A couple of BLM people bravely crossed the street and greeted those on the other side.  There was some talk and then at one point, a hug was offered.  Amazingly, the hug was returned.  Before long, hugs were breaking out all over.  In one moment, there was antagonism and then… peace! For one small moment in time, there was peace.  [1]

This gave me hope for the world.

These people modeled for us what is possible when we are willing to step out of our comfort zone.  Can we learn to love those we disagree with?  Can we find common ground?  At the very least, can we learn not to hate?

One evening during a ritual on top of a sacred hill, some friends and I were talking about love.  Cathy, like many of my friends, is appalled by the behavior of one particular political candidate.  But knowing the importance of stretching beyond our habitual behaviors, she experimented by saying, “I love you, Donald Trump.”  She said it several times, each time with a bit more volume until she could, just a teensy tiny little bit, start to believe it.

Sometimes we just have to fake it till we make it.

Love.  What the world needs now.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/07/11/one-dallas-protesters-come-together-nccorig.cnn/video/playlists/dallas-police-officer-shot/

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