"When fear, rather than love, compels us,
we do really terrible things to other people."(Shane Claiborne)
Think about our world right now. Doesn't fear feel like the primary emotion in the atmosphere?
Fear + hatred.
With these as the driving forces, really terrible things are being done. Everywhere we look.
Fear + hatred = terrible things. Fear + hatred = terrible things. Fear + hatred = terrible things.
But what about inside each of our own hearts?
Who do we fear?
Who do we hate?
Are fear and hatred compelling us to do terrible things to other people, even in our own thoughts?
I find myself tsk-tsk-tsking the world around me, all the while failing to look at my own heart to see what fear and hatred lie there. This projection and denial game keeps my ego intact, my sense of superiority untouched, and my attention focused on "the other" rather than on myself, which, in this instance, is where my attention belongs.
Who do I really fear? And why? What is the fear based on? Reality? Stereotype? Bias? The media?
Who do I hate? And why? What would cause me to hate another person? Do I see a despised part of myself in them? Do I oppose what they stand for? Or believe? Why do I turn so easily to hatred, when perhaps what is called for is curiosity, or compassion, or both?
In what ways (be honest, Alice) do I do terrible things to people? Maybe I don't physically hurt anyone, but do I ignore them? Refuse to listen to them, or really see them, or honor their aliveness in some way? Do I categorize them unfairly? Diminish their opinion or viewpoint? Gossip or dismiss them with my words?
And - this is most important question, I think - what would it look like to turn away from fear, hatred and terrible things?
Even in our brokenness and innate selfishness, we can commit ourselves to make this turn.
Of course, this is not a simple task. But there are a few things we can start with, perhaps.
Notice when you feel fear. Feel it. Welcome it long enough that you can ask it some questions:
- Hi, fear. What's this about?
- Where do you come from? What prompted you to show up?
- Are you realistic or a figment of my imagination?
- If you are not realistic, what would it look like if you took a backseat right now?
Notice when you feel hatred. Feel it. Welcome it long enough to ask it some questions:
- Hello, hatred. Why are you here?
- What's underneath you?
- Are you a result of fear? Or some other emotion?
- Do you feel good in my body or bad?
- What if I acknowledged your presence and then chose a counterintuitive response? Like, I wanna' punch that guy, but what if instead, I responded in a gentle voice? How might that work for us? For the person we feel hatred for?
I wonder if we recognized fear and hatred, allowed ourselves to experience them in our minds and bodies, and paused long enough to ask them some questions ... I wonder if we might not do so many terrible things.
I changed up Shane Claiborne's quote a bit:
When love, rather than fear, compels us, we do really big-hearted, merciful, compassionate, humane things to other people.
And the world is a better place for it.