It seems a cliché.
- Love your enemy.
- Love is greater than hate.
- Love is the only power great enough to transform an enemy into a friend.
But, Is this real?
Yes, yes. We’ve heard all this stuff about love before. Even as we probably agree with these notions of love, we struggle to commit to love as a real option.
We say, we cannot possible love the people who are causing so much damage to our country and the world. Perhaps we wonder whether it even be right to love them? Can we love the ones who advocate for cruelty and destruction? Should we love those who deliberately undermine democracy?
Maybe rage is the best response. Maybe we should throw love out the window and rage back. How do we want to respond when our values and ideals collide with the corrosive news of the day?
Rage isn’t working
What I notice in the midst of my own rage-filled responses to the news, is my own stuck-ness. My rage and righteousness interferes with my ability to see any meaningful path forward. What it does lead to is more rage and comfortable righteousness, but nothing resembling change.
What does work?
And so, I reach for models of transformation and justice who are far wiser than myself. What do they have to say on the matter? Well, to start, they do not say condemn your enemies with all your might or fight back with cutting wit and incontrovertible data. Neither do they suggest mocking or shaming as good strategies, even though that may be what we want to hear.
No. They tell us to love. Love in the face of incredible struggle. Love despite of our own inability to love. Love without requiring others to be deserving of love.
“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
Martin Luther King Jr
“The real love is to love them that hate you, to love your neighbor even though you distrust him.”
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
Robert F. Kennedy
“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.”
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
So, what do we do with these wise directives?
Here’s some beginning thoughts on the question.
We need to:
- Call upon ourselves to be the people who know how to love in the midst of terrible divisions
- Lean into love as our teacher to show us what true greatness in ourselves and the world can really be
- Be honest about where we fall short of our own intentions and values and hold ourselves responsible for what we bring to the world.
We have so many models for what powerful, transforming love looks like. It’s time to learn and act from this place of courage.
Nothing else will do.