A reader asks, “But how DO we choose love in the face of hate? How can we feel a genuine caring for someone who is behaving despicably?”
There are, of course, no easy answers to such questions, and we each must make our own choices, moment by moment. Yet we need not move forward blindly. Models abound. I’m not speaking here of the prominent men and women who’ve lived out these challenges publicly, crafting wholesome responses to the baser expressions of human nature. No, the models I’m referring to are more ordinary and much closer to home. If we’ve been lucky, they have lived within our home.
What allows a parent (on a good day) to remain calm and caring in the face of a toddler’s tantrum or an adolescent’s rebellion? Understanding the child’s efforts to mature~~ whether in exerting her or his will, or wisely managing a plethora of impulses~~helps. That parent, though, is also bonded with the child. There is love at the start. By maintaining that sense of connection within a context of understanding, the parent’s responses are more likely to be loving and constructive.
So how do we find that bond when someone, perhaps a stranger, utters a racial slur for example? By recognizing that we are united already, through a rich and shared common experience. Being human in this world is not easy. We come with strong passions that are often difficult to manage. We have each been wounded, and those wounds affect our behavior and give rise to fears that are easily fanned.
We all behave badly at times. While I don’t use racial slurs, I have certainly been insensitive to the effect my words have on others. And I, too, can be unkind, even destructive, when I’m threatened or angry. These are common human failings. Some of us are more conscious than others, even more refined, but we’re each ignorant in our own way. Remembering this, we can more easily be generous with others, recognizing in their foibles hints of our own.
My current favorite quote, from Adrienne Maree Brown, is this: “Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” As the darker aspects of human nature are being laid bare once more, we can hold one another tightly…and with a generosity of spirit.
While we do need to intervene when someone is behaving harmfully, we can do so from a place of camaraderie. In pulling back the veil of separation, we can remember the truth of our profound connection. We can then respond out of that experience of oneness. In other words, we can act out of love.
To choose love, we must love. It is that simple. Not easy, mind you, but simple.