, , ,

This one is about Love.  Any discussion about love deals with conflicts with God, with others and with self.  Our function as humans is to Love God and love our neighbor with our whole being, and a healthy Love, or at least respect of self, is an essential means for accomplishing this goal.  Yet the most basic function is often the most difficult endeavor.    What is standing in our way?
There are at least two enemies of Love.  Probably more, but I will only address two.
The first is one you might expect and that is Hatred.  Love and Hatred viciously compete for dominance in the heart and soul, often existing intertwined with the other.
But how does Hatred work?  We might quickly answer that, “We Hate evil things!”  But from what I see of the world, very few things are truly and wholly evil.  Genocide and child abuse find their way onto the list and perhaps a few other things, but many other dislikable things are in actuality only difficult and complex.  Indeed, I suggest that more often, we use Hatred to protect us from the things we fear and the things we do not understand.  You can Hate anyone from far away if you don’t really know them.  And because you think you Hate them, you are prevented from connecting with the far away figure and prevented from loving her.  In this way, Hatred(which may only be fear and ignorance) is an enemy of Love.
The second enemy of love is Indifference.  Said another way, the second enemy of Love is the attitude that says, “I don’t really care.”  This is one that is perhaps less apparent, but much more common.
Indifference strikes a blow at Love when we walk by the bum with a cardboard sign.  When we take our drink from the nameless barista.  When someone fills our gas tank and we maybe see his or her face.  When politicians do their best to serve their country and we take no notice.  When a man or woman sits across the aisle in church every Sunday morning for months and months and months and we never learn their name.  When we’re sitting in traffic or standing in line and think only of our own hurry, neglecting the hurry of the hundreds around us.
In these and more scenarios, we are not Hateful people, nor do we hold anything personal against the people we don’t notice.  We may not even be mean or rude.  But neither are we able to Love because we simply don’t notice or think about them.
These enemies present formidable challenges…but also tremendous opportunities.  Hatred and Indifference can both be mastered by Love.  But Love must become practical and tangible.  One way this can happen is if we increase our Understanding of the thing for which we feel Hatred or Indifference.
The more you Understand someone, the harder it is to fear her.  The more you Understand someone, the harder it is to Hate him.  If we truly(or at least better) Understood the people, beliefs and lifestyles we think we hate, I dare say we would hate a lot less.
The more you Understand someone, the harder it is to forget her.  The more you Understand someone, the more you care about him.  How much extra effort is it to at least smile at the bum?  To chat with the barista?  To learn the gas station attendant’s name?  To make conversation with new people at church?  To learn about who our politicians are?  To recognize that there are seven hundred other people stuck on the same on ramp at 5:47 pm and all of them are tired and hungry and eager to get home and their lives are just as equal as mine?
That is a lot of steps and a lot of people.  We won’t understand them all in one day.  We won’t connect with them all in loving meaningful ways this month.  Realistically, we cannot invest ourselves in every other human around us.  But we can see them.  We can acknowledge them.  We can imagine their perspectives and feelings.  We can recognize the divine spark, the image of God in every man, woman and child around us.  We can at least look for opportunities to love and when they arise, for the certainly will, we can embrace them, embracing people, building our understanding, building our compassion, and dealing a death blow to the enemies of Love.