Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Struggles in Loving

It's one of those days, maybe it's been one of those months, that a lot is going through my mind ... Putting it all in written form, or at least written form for public consumption, does not seem so easy.  Today I'll try to get a few thoughts down.

I came back from CPT training more committed to peace-making than I was before I left.  Shortly after I came home, I received a message on my Facebook wall that essentially implied that I had deserved for my house to be burglarized (an event that occurred while I was away).

In the spirit of loving my neighbor, or more specifically, a couple of family members, I mustered up what I could from the sessions on nonviolent communication as I replied.  A number of my friends later commented on the inappropriateness of the original post.  Somewhere in the comments that followed, my family members declared that they loved me and were glad I was safe.  When a friend suggested that they apologize for their post, their response was "For what, I didn't rob her." If this had been a private conversation, I wouldn't write about it here, but since the whole conversation was public, I don't feel I'm violating anyone's privacy by blogging about it.  

I have thought a lot about the conversation and, in particular, about the declaration of love after the mean-spiritedness.  My interpretation of the attitude of the family members is "I can insult you as long as I tell you I love you later on. That makes the insults OK."  

It doesn't. 

Honestly, it brings to mind an abusive husband who assaults his wife verbally, physically, and/or sexually, then blames it on her and/or tells her he's doing it because he loves her.  No, sir.  Violence, whether verbal or physical, is not acceptable; it is not the fault of the recipient; it is not a sign of love.  There is a difference between saying something that hurts and being hurtful.

There is a difference between disagreeing with and insulting someone.  I do not have to hold the same beliefs as my friends, family, students, colleagues, or other acquaintances.  But I do expect to be treated with dignity and respect.  I do expect to be acknowledged as a person, as an image of God who created me, as more than the one or multiple beliefs about which we disagree.  I do my best to offer the same.  I don't always succeed, but I try.

Thankfully, I have many friends and family members with whom I can talk about all sorts of issues while maintaining the common assumption of each other's goodness and good intentions.  We listen to each other with open minds and hearts.  I am so grateful for those people.  I am dismayed that this is not the case with everyone I know.

I am dismayed that so much public discourse is made up of shouting matches, blame-throwing, and name-calling. This kind of "conversation" happens across all lines of politics, religion, and other belief systems. It is not productive.  It is destructive.  It harms relationships; it decreases the possibility of true understanding and compromise; it impedes progress.

A few days ago as I was listening to NPR, I heard an interview of a legislator (I tried to find his name and/or the interview but can't) who was in Congress several decades ago, then left, and is now back again.  When asked about the differences between Congress his first time around and now, he commented that now members of Congress spend less time in Washington and less time in session than during his previous term; they have fewer opportunities to socialize together.  As a result of both factors, they spend less time building relationships with each other, the kind of relationships that make working together and, ultimately, compromise, more likely and easier to accomplish.

As I write this, prepared to judge others, I am humbled to recognize that it is not just "they," but I who need to work on relationship-building (something I did not have in mind when I started writing today).  I need to step up.  I need to love better. My judgement of "them" will do no good, if I am not willing to carefully self-examine and change myself, the only person I actually can change.

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” 

― Thomas Merton


  1. I was wondering if you would write about was an uncomfortable experience just reading it on fb and I wrote and deleted a few responses to your relative. I finally decided not to write but was relieved when Suzanne said something. You are so right - the I love you doesn't change that it was hurtful. I am sorry you had to go through that and happy you were able to use your writing to process it all.

    1. Kim, thanks. Yes, it was uncomfortable, but so many people have far more harmful things said to them without good means to process and without people standing up for them. They may even believe that what is said is true... I feel comfortable with who I am and know that I am so fortunate for myriad reasons.