We live in a time of rhetorical and cyclical violence where words of hate beget yet more hateful words. Trolling one another has become as common place as Sunday brunch and spring time showers. It seems the whole world wants to claim grievance while concurrently dismissing the pains of others. Empathy has become passe; we instead turn on blow torches full blast and sear anyone who does not share our journey or look like us.
Civility is crumbling beneath our collective feet as more and more of us turn to hatred to fight injustice. But this is utter folly for fighting injustice with hatred is injustice unto itself. This logic makes sense on its face yet logic is nullified continuously when we lead and are led by emotions. I am not preaching here for this is a struggle that I face on a continuous basis. I pray all the time that God gives me the patience and the forbearance to return malice with grace and kindness.
I am sure every generation has felt like the sky was falling and that the world was going to go to hell in a hand-basket. Perhaps it is just a human instinct to feel as though our generation is on the brink of utter catastrophe–being fatalistic has been hard-wired in our DNA ever since we still had predators outside of humans to worry about. But something feels different about the age we have entered into; the paradigm has somehow shifted and the zeitgeist we inhabit is one of acrimony and bitterness.
Civility is slowly being bled out as our leaders have morphed into a bunch of demagogues who have a vested interest in our continued devolution towards rage and antipathy. But at some point we have to stop blaming “them” and look at ourselves and wonder why it is we are responding with such fury at perceived injustice. I don’t write this to somehow diminish the level of outrage and iniquity that is mugging this world into a cold winter of discontent. But injustice is never lessened when we decide to be hateful in order to take on hate.
I say this out of experience for there was a time not too long ago when I used to go more ham than Hormel at anyone who dared to whisper a malicious word at me. Whatever gift that God gave me to write I inverted this talent in order to incinerate a troll who dared to rap at my door. The more I fought, the more I boxed myself–I became a pugilist like Mohammad Ali except I was only knocking myself out. I was David in reverse, taking on midgets with five smooth boulders in order to let lesser characters know their place. I ended up becoming the lesser myself; words I could have used to elevate those who need sunlight instead I used to bury into shadows those who came at me sideways. But I know now, the more people are broken the more they lash out. Why not extend grace towards those who hurt instead of returning hurtful rhetoric in order to get the last word in?
It is the hardest of tasks to be kind to those who lash out. The level of pettiness is on the rise daily as more and more glee at the thought of diminishing others. It’s only now that I get it, why we are admonished to forgive at all costs and to turn the cheek seven times seventy times. I used to think forgiving was for suckers and wimps, now I realize that the true suckers and wimps are those who think they can make a difference by through petulance. Nobility resides in us when we are charitable even to those who don’t deserve it. Imagine how the world would change overnight if our default mode was to love others instead of burning people who don’t agree with us. But if we can’t be forgiving to better the world, then let’s do it for the sake of self-interest for only bitterness and solitude awaits those who insist on getting the last lick.
I am writing these words for me as much as I am for the reader. It’s one thing to know logically for what I write is something I believe in my mind. But translating this belief into a language that my heart can synthesize and practice in reality is something all together different. But I know the only way forward–the only way that iniquity to be lessened and for the arc of history to bend towards justice–is if love is applied in places where hatred flourishes.
So I pray for this world and for my own heart; next time someone reflects loathing into our eyes, pause before acting. We can either add yet another log to the fire of antipathy that is consuming the world or we can be water and do our part to extinguish the flames when we are encountered with malevolence. No need to ask “what would Jesus do”, the answer is evident. Find the love in our hearts–and be it.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King
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Check out the Ghion Cast below which deals with the notion of hate and how to move beyond those who love to blow at candles.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.