Last week I didn’t manage to share anything. I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the violence, by the Orlando shootings, by the feeling of grief and defeat that comes with yet another tragedy. Part of me wants to ignore it. Part of me feels that it is the call that we all must answer.
Our interconnectivity makes all of the intolerance and violence in our world so amplified. It is nothing new. Throughout all of history people of been killing one another – often over differences in our beliefs about God, about right and wrong, about our values. It’s just that this intolerance would only rock the region in which it was occurring. Only the local communities would hear about it. Now we all experience it together around the globe.
This amplification is an increased call to rise. It is an opportunity for us to do something different. No one hears about these acts of terrorism and celebrates the loss of lives. Every single time we come together in our local communities to hold vigils, to pray, to grieve, to support one another, to share our love. It strengthens us – not just within our local communities – but also as a global community.
Regardless of our faith or our beliefs, we look at these terrible acts and we know for certain within ourselves that what we want is peace. The violence and suffering that we witness confirms our desire to live in a world of tolerance, understanding, love, peace, safety, acceptance, and joy. What we are all seeking is a better world. We want a solution. We want peace.
We sense that it is time to do something different – it is time to make a change. But, what can we do? Is the answer more violence, war, greater separation, vengeance, hatred, and punishment? Are we going to be able to change the conflict that we see by creating more conflict? I don’t think so.
What that leaves us with is a really challenging question – can we learn to have compassion for our enemies?
This is a hard one to swallow. In this day and age that means developing compassion for terrorists. Talk about a divisive statement, but stick with me for a moment. Imagine the amount of pain, fear, hatred, and suffering you would have to feel to choose to commit an act of terror. Imagine how many negative thoughts about the world and yourself that would have to be present within you. Imagine just how much your life would have to lack meaning and fulfillment to take the lives of others.
Honestly, if I really think about how much pain a person must be in to feel the need to act in such an inhumane manner, it makes me weep. I can’t imagine feeling that lost and afraid and disconnected. When I see the humanity in them through the eyes of compassion, I can see the vulnerable, scared, misguided person underneath my judgements about their “evil” nature. When I see that part of the person, I can find some level of love for them.
I am not saying that I love their actions. I am not saying that I condone their actions. I am not even saying that I forgive their actions. All I am saying is that if I can strip away my judgements, my fear, my intolerance, then I can see those humans that behave in ways I do not agree with as humans who just want what you or I want – they want to feel safe, loved, heard, understood. They want to matter. They are just going about it out of fear rather than understanding.
We also want those things, but to automatically hate and condemn all people with dissimilar beliefs is to also act of fear rather than understanding. It would be hypocritical to hate someone for committing an act of hate for then we are just perpetuating the very thing that we are condemning. Someone has to be big enough to step back and be the first to extend loving-kindness and understanding.
I think about the times that Jason and I get into an argument. Every single time that happens it is because we are both trying to be heard. Instead of taking a moment to hear the other person, we both push forward trying to get our own needs met first. The way to resolve that conflict requires one of us to table our own needs for a moment to first hear the other person. We have to give them the space to be heard and once they feel understood, they can now hear the other person.
We need to listen to the opposing views around us with an open heart. Listening compassionately and trying to understand the other does not negate our own thoughts and feelings. We can learn to hear what others are saying and meet their needs so that we too can be heard in the situation. Rather than continuing to fight for what we believe to be right, we can open a space to listen.
What if the answer to terrorism was to love the terrorists? What if we could love them into non-violence? I know – that sounds extreme. But, if someone is not feeling understood, loved, and valued, then they are more likely to act out. If we are to meet their needs fully and help them to know their divine nature, then perhaps that would be enough.
I don’t really know how to do that. I also don’t know if we could accomplish it any time soon. Yet I do believe that any effort that any of us makes to create more love, peace, and understanding in this world matters. I believe that if enough of us could set our judgements and upsets aside to value every person – regardless of their humanity and mistakes –we could change the world.
Let’s come together as a global community to support one another in being the change that we all so desperately want to see take place. Let’s continue to pray for peace. Let’s do our best to cultivate compassion and understanding so that we can stop the cycle of intolerance and violence.