The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies. My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. -MLK Jr.
I wanted to write this piece because I know we have a chance. There is good in us, there is light that wants to connect. After my conversation with my friend Sal Masekela (WODcast Podcast 240 1:15 and 280 53:40) seeing the response from the listeners, it reinforced the my belief that we can do better. I am in a unique position that allows me to use my experience for good. We all are. We just need to open ourselves up and actually listen to each other. I mean actually listen to understand, not just hear and wait to deliver your point. That is “versus” and a selfish mentality that does not lead to empathy and growth. I see sides that want to prove they are right. It hurts when I see darkness where there should be light. It’s time to set down that bag of judgement, anger, bitterness, and retaliation. Love is lighter and lifts us all.
Matin Luther King did many sermons that have impact on society today. The quote in the photo below is from a sermon he did at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1957. The relevance of his words feel like they could have been easily said today. It deals with learning to love your adversaries. “Loving your enemies” was so basic to King and part of his basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. This applies not only to people, but to situations and circumstances. If we were to ask King today where we should go from here, I think he would say we must begin by analyzing ourselves and forgiveness. You begin to love your adversaries by looking within. This is the path to learning the “how of this situation.” There is something in you that arouses the positive or negative response. This is an opportunity for us to take ownership of something we can control; ourselves and our thoughts. I hope by sharing this we can learn something from the past. This is not a me vs. you or us vs. them thing. This is a we thing. I have deconstructed his sermon below because it lays a foundation of healing.
First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. If you do not possess the power of forgiveness, you lack the power of love. That does not mean you forget or ignore what has happened. It means that what did happen is no longer a barrier to the relationship. You recognize it but no longer use it as a wall between you. Forgiveness lifts that burden and frees the light within.
Second, the evil deed of your adversary, the thing that hurts, does not express all that he is. There is light, an element of good, found even in our worst enemy. Know there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we recognize this, we are less likely to hate our adversary. Hate breeds more hate. See him in a new light. Look for the good that is there. Help him if necessary. Recognize that hate grows out of fear, misunderstanding, and pride. We can recognize that and do something before it boils over.
Third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate our adversary but to win his friendship and understanding. That is the way.
Why should we love our adversaries?
- Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
- Hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity.
- Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.
The more vicious our response is, the more sympathetic the cause becomes. Violence creates more problems then it solves. The more we fight, the more darkness we spread, the less we will achieve. Together, we can be the light. That is The Sisu Way.
We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. – Martin Luther King Jr.