Responding to Hate with Love

I am seeing a lot of hatred of the other in the world right now.  The events in Charlottesville and Barcelona are clear examples of people exposing hatred towards others, so much hatred of the other that it even leads to violence and murder.  And, like a chain reaction, spilling out of both events are well-intentioned people espousing hatred themselves.  People blaming and demonizing Muslims.  People blaming and demonizing people who are Islamophobic.  People bragging about how many “white racists” they’ve defriended or blocked on social media after Charlottesville.

And it’s understandable; everything in our culture teaches us that you fight hatred with more hatred.  We’ve seen the media pictures of two groups of protestors screaming at each other.  Faces on both sides are so screwed up into rage and contempt.  We’re taught to fight intimidation and violence with more intimidation and violence.  “Don’t let them push you around…you have to show them whose boss!”   “Don’t let them know you’re scared…when they get mean, get meaner.”

But fighting hatred with more hatred only perpetuates the cycle of violence, antagonism, and alienation which fuels more hatred.  If our response to a KKK member is to say “what a scum of the Earth…how repugnant….he/she should be locked up for life.”  Then is it any wonder that this KKK member feels disconnected, “oppressed”, and alienated from society?  And do these feelings lead anywhere except for fear and hatred?

I know this is hard.  We want to denounce ideologies and belief systems that cause real pain and death to people simply because of the color of their skin or the religion they follow.  Absolutely.  But treating people who adopt those belief systems with contempt doesn’t end those ideologies, it fuels them.

Last week I watched this PBS documentary “Accidental Courtesy” (which you can currently find on Netflix):

To be clear, it is not Daryl Davis’ responsibility, nor is it any minority’s responsibility, to befriend those who would directly oppress them.  The oppressed do not have an obligation to educate the oppressor.  But that makes what Daryl is doing all the more impressive and admirable.  Daryl is doing the hard, long work of responding to hatred with love.  Daryl doesn’t demonize those who hold violent belief systems; instead he offers friendship and love to the person so that they can one day be free of those belief systems.

I know trying to wrap one’s mind around befriending KKK member is a lot.  And rather than try to grapple with that very difficult task first, start with who it is in your life that you label as “hateful.”  Maybe it is a co-worker who supports the opposite political party from you.  Maybe it is a family member who makes comments about other races which leaves you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable.  Maybe it is simply a friend, acquaintance, or co-worker who merely uses loaded language, who moves through the world by making a lot of negative judgments of other people.

Start with that person.  Imagine what it would look like to offer this person friendship and love.  I know it’ll be uncomfortable, but the state of the world right now is clear evidence that we can’t heal our brokenness by staying in our comfort zones.

Next time you see that person, take a breath.  Notice your impulse to judge them, to move away from them, to ignore them, or whatever that first impulse is.  Relax that muscle, and find a way to connect.  See if you can empathize with their feelings and values.  See if you can connect over a shared love of music, books, TV, sports, etc.  Don’t expect them to change quickly; don’t even make that your goal.  Your goal is to simply love this person, and that is enough.

August 23, 2017Permalink
Free Practice Group

Twice a month I lead a free Compassionate Communication Practice Group. Open to those new and advanced students. We meet on the First and Third Monday of the month at 6 pm. We gather at 640 Hawthorn Lane in classroom 8. Classrooms are behind the church and to the left, next to the parking lot. Practice Group sessions usually run for 2 hours.

The next one will be on July 6th at 6 pm.