In the midst of hate-driven killings, bombings and shootings in houses of worship and on a college campus, we are painfully aware that evil exists in the world. The derisive and divisive rhetoric regularly dished out on social media and the cancerous contempt curried by national news outlets fans the flames of hate that, if not extinguished, may well consume the good and united core of the country.
Sadly, there have always been times like these. Hate has always been the driving force in the destruction of communities, societies and nations. The societies that survive and succeed are those that honestly and clearly call out hate wherever they see it, then transcend it with overwhelming goodness, kindness and understanding.
Hate in all its forms — including contempt, prejudice and petty slurs — leads to a place where fear and frustration foment into rage and even violence. We must call out hate for what it is and then do our part to advance meaningful conversations and elevate our dialogue.
The morally bankrupt idea of superiority and the resulting dehumanizing of others based on race, religion, gender, orientation, social status or political belief is often where hate gains a foothold.
As we consume — or are consumed by — media from Twitter to cable news, we would be wise to remember that no one who plants thistles in the spring expects to harvest fruit in the fall. So don’t think for a minute that those who perpetually plant hate and contempt are expecting to reap love and kindness later.
I am convinced that was not an accident, but divine design, that a very important phrase was inserted into the Declaration of Independence. This defining document of American liberty is primarily a detailed list all of the grievances the colonists had against King George and the British crown. Yet, in the midst of the litany of complaints the phrase “all men are created equal” makes a stunning and transcendent appearance. The Declaration sparked the flame of freedom’s revolution. It also launched a national soul-conflicting conversation, which continues today, over how to bring our behavior into alignment with the ideals of equality we profess.
In order to transcend contempt and hate, we have to see each other differently. It is easy to become pessimistic about people and cynical toward our fellow citizens. Joe Klein wisely wrote, “Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.” We have to see the exceptional in others rather than their flaws.
A friend once asked how I saw the good in people. Without thinking I responded that I don’t see the good in people — I just see people. Seeing people in their true character as fellow travelers, and treating them with kindness, love and respect, always leads to a better place.
My dad forever changed my view of people when he introduced me to Og Mandino’s classic tale “The Greatest Salesmen in the World.” In particular, he had me memorize the success “scroll” about greeting each day with love in your heart.
Here is a sampling:
I will greet this day with love in my heart.
And how will I speak? I will laud mine enemies and they will become friends. I will encourage my friends and they will become brothers and sisters. Always will I dig for reasons to applaud. Never will I scratch for excuses to gossip. When I am tempted to criticize I will bite on my tongue. When I am moved to praise I will shout from the roofs. …
And how will I act? I will love all manner of people for each has qualities to be admired, even though they be hidden. …
But how will I react to the actions of others? With Love. For just as love is my weapon to open the hearts of men, love is also my shield to repulse the arrows of hate and the spears of anger. …
I will greet this day with love in my heart.
How we speak, act and react to those around us, especially those who are different, or with whom we may disagree, will determine how much hate or kindness we have in our lives and communities.
It is time to call out the purveyors of contempt and profiteers of hate who regularly shrug their shoulders with a “it's not my problem” attitude. It is also time to call on citizens to no longer join the slouching-shoulder crowd who are increasingly OK with a culture of contempt.
Government is not, cannot and should not be big enough to solve these issues. We must square our shoulders and do it together.22 comments on this story
We often, and rightly, say with gratitude that we stand on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us in our country and community. We should remember that the only reason we can stand on their shoulders is because they were willing to square them.
The color, size or strength of our shoulders does not matter. What matters is that we are willing to square them and work as one to lift each other and this nation beyond the cycles of contempt and hate and toward better, more hope-filled days to come.