My day is starting with a cross-continental flight, Louisville to San Diego, two vastly differently spots if there ever were.
Dear friends, trusted colleagues, good work and even a visit with family I have not seen in far too long are on tap this week, and I’m thankful for the opportunity (and for my parents, who are holding down the fort at home). For some reason, flying tens of thousands of feet above land always makes me want to write. Perspective or something I guess.
It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the United States, and I am struck by that in an entirely different way this year. This country feel so raw and angry and divided right now and yet here we are, a day off for much of the work force, and special celebrations in honor of someone who was first and foremost about finding a way to heal that which has been divided. He wasn’t perfect. None of us are, including our heroes. It’s a very gray world we live in. But the man said a whole lot we need to listen to and did a whole lot we need to pay attention to and gave his life to his fellow Americans in such a way that it is important to remember.
Today, though, I’m struck by this one thing he said, the bit about deciding to stick with love, because hate is too great a burden.
God it would have been easy for him to hate.
It’s easier to hate, you know. To cast assumptions and point fingers and judge another for their actions. And when such assumptions and blame and judgment seem warranted, well, it’s even easier. And this is usually when we’ve been hurt, or feel anxious and insecure, or are very angry at a person or situation.
It’s easier to take sides, declare everyone else wrong or misguided or unenlightened or whatever else we want to say, and then back up into our own corners and wrap our certainty around ourselves the way a boxer’s trainer drapes a cape around his prize fighter.
Hate is easier because we refuse to listen. We shut the door on compassion and let our own life stories, our own struggles, our own baggage become the only narrative we’re willing to work with.
We are very good, in these United States, at hate. At anger. At division. At dehumanizing one another to such a level that we forget…if we every really knew at all…that we are all so much more alike than we are different.
Just in case it isn’t clear, let me make it so: I am speaking to both sides of that aisle, both corners of the ring, both sets of bleachers on the field, and both ends of the court. And I am not condemning anyone for holding fast to what you believe. And I certainly have my own lines in the sand I’m willing to draw. But dear lord, y’all. We’ve got to stop with the direction we’re headed.
Deciding to stick with love—it is a brave and difficult choice. Not easy by a long shot. And yet I believe with all that I am that it is, in fact, the only way.
A few days ago someone (who disagrees with me pretty strongly on many things political) said to me, “I don’t care about you because of whatever vote you did or didn’t cast in the ballot box. I care about your heart.”
I had to let that one sink in. Big time.
Because voting aside, there are plenty of other issues I have with people in my life, that, if I’m being brutally honest, mean that I don’t particularly care if I ever see this person or that person again (this is a point of confession, y’all, not one of pride).
The work of truly loving is so, so hard. Maybe the hardest thing we learn to do. And we fail at it all the time. Miserably. (At least I do—maybe you’ve got it down pat.) And the real work of it isn’t about just being with those we like, or who are easy to love. The real work of it isn’t about Hallmark or even your best mountaintop experience.
The real work of it is day-to-day. In the trenches. Dirty and ugly sometimes, and wanting desperately to just give up because it can feel so awfully hard, loving this world and its people. The real work of it means admitting when we’ve not done so at all, and so have to set about the task of forgiveness (ourselves, included). The real work of love has nothing to do with certainty and everything to do with hope. The real work of love is gritty. Uncomfortable. Vulnerable. And it can mean setting aside every bias we have in an effort to listen to what someone else’s life has been like.
See what I mean? Hate. Easier.
But sticking with love…. Sheesh. It is not at all for the faint-hearted. And I’ve got no pointers for how to do it. Because I’m not even sure myself most days. But I know, in my gut, that the sticking is worth it. And, in the end, not nearly so heavy and awful as bearing the weight of hate.
This life we live can be heavy and awful enough all on its own.