Love and Power
The way we respond in crisis has the opportunity to be powerful, if we hold on to love while doing so. It’s so easy to respond to the hatred around us with anger that gives rise to condemnation, that causes us to contemplate revenge. In spite of an ongoing commitment to nonviolence, a commitment to restoration, a commitment to love, practicing this is not easy. When I see acts of hatred demonstrated randomly, racistly, I feel my blood pressure rising. When I see acts of violence perpetrated purposefully, premeditatedly, my blood begins to boil. And then when I hear words legitimizing these deeds, justifying them, I clench my fist yet tighter.
Even though it is my principled decision to live in a way that demonstrates love, a way that honors others’ humanity, all this can be pushed aside so easily, forgotten in the heightened emotions. Anger, legitimization of hatred, justification of bad decisions, violence -- all these allow us to push those outside our realm of current understanding into those beyond any possible understanding; we “other” them. And when they are others, they are no longer relatable humans.
We can also “other” those in our own community, mentally putting ourselves in a different (more superior) category than those with whom we disagree. This separation into us versus them, those who understand versus those unenlightened, is gradually, subtly harmful. The more we perpetuate differences, the less we will seek to engage with those around us, while thinking better of ourselves and worse of others.
Before looking outside myself, I have to face my frustration and anger and see the situation differently - to see the shattering images of God strewn across our media, to see the dulling of God’s goodness, to see the ongoing destruction in God’s creation - and my anger turns into anguish. If we love God, then we will love those whom God loves. And my anguish turns into lament. And my lament, even in nonsense, makes sense of the emotions, makes sense of my frailty. It motivates me to renew my commitment to honor ‘the other’ who is more like me than I’d like to think, to persist in a search for our commonalities, and to demonstrate love through seeking the other’s good.
Our hope is too new and too old --
I do not know what would remain to use
Were love not transfigured power
And power not straying love.
Do not protest: "Let love alone rule!"
Can you prove it true?
But resolve: Every morning
I shall concern myself anew about the boundary
Between the love-deed-Yes and the power-deed-No
And pressing forward honor reality.
We cannot avoid
Cannot escape the compulsion
To afflict the world,
So let us, cautious in diction
And mighty in contradiction,
-Martin Buber (1926)