Healing Ourselves from Hate
April 7, 2016
-Mary Wright Baylor
There is a bird sanctuary I love to visit on an island at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a birder’s dream destination. Birds of every color and species nest in this feathery refuge. I can spend hours watching them fly in and land in the treetops, feed their young, or establish their place on bare branches as they jockey for position. There is much we humans can learn from these feathered creatures.
Currently, many of us are watching, reading, and listening with grave concern for the vitriol, racism, misogyny, and violence that have been unleashed this election cycle. This phenomenon spews hatred and taints our country which is a human sanctuary filled with God’s children. We watch the pundits, read scads of articles and analyses about root causes, and learn that this is a complex, deep-seated, and long-standing can of worms that has been opened. Clearly, we have much work to do as a nation.
But first, what can we as faithful individuals do to be part of the much needed healing? How can we stem this tide of blatant hate and cruel bigotry? What can I do? All racial reconciliation programs suggest that until each of us does our own soul-searching, that is, to really reach inwardly and discover our own biases and bigotries, we are not ready to make progress. All of us have some form of bias and bigotry. Until we are honest about this, there is no hope of co-existing in peace like the birds in the sanctuary. We cannot blame one candidate or his large following without thoroughly examining ourselves. In what way is part of each of us mirrored in their behavior?
Doing this kind of self-examination is not just an exercise limited to Lent, but an ongoing way to celebrate the new life of redemption every day. To honestly discover and admit our own sins and weaknesses, and then deal with them are essential steps towards reconciliation and co-existence. How is this accomplished? Through confession and prayer, counseling, or direct communication and engagement with those who push our buttons, we begin. In the joy of Eastertide, we should be a people that seeks new life by understanding our own beliefs and behaviors. Then and only then can we seek to help tackle these bigger, heart wrenching issues. Collectively, we are the Body of Christ and “they,” too, are part of this Body. Hate begets hate. Judgment breeds judgment. We must start with ourselves today.
Watching the birds live together in the microcosm of a peaceable kingdom is a beautiful thing. In my lifetime, we have seen this sort of beautiful resurrection in South Africa and Ireland. Let it be so in these United States. Let it begin with each one of us.
- Take some time to make a list of all the “others” who in some way offend you.
- Identify why that is so.
- Pray about that. Confess it either alone to God or to another.
- Determine a specific, tangible way that you can learn more about those “others.”
- Seek ways to interact with those that push your buttons. Communicate with them. Seek to understand them.
- Forgive them. Forgive yourself.
Frederick W. Faber wrote:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy/ Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,/ Which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows/ Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings/ Have such kindly judgment given…
There is grace enough for thousands/ Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations/ In that upper home of bliss.
For the love of God is broader/ Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal/ Is most wonderfully kind.
There is plentiful redemption/ In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members/ In the sorrows of the Head…
It is God: His love looks mighty,/ But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness/ Goes far out beyond our dreams.
But we make His love too narrow/ By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness/ With a zeal He will not own.
Was there ever kinder shepherd/ Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us/ Come and gather at His feet?
Mary Wright Baylor
Beautiful, Peg. Our hymnody ALWAYS says it better, doesn’t it?
What wonderful thoughts and actions to focus on this Easter season. Two years ago when I came face to face with my own narrowness and bias I was gripped with fear. Fear is a paralytic, it stops you dead in your tracks. What would my fellow congregants say, how would this affect my extended family, my circle of friends and neighbors. What would happen to me if I changed my opinions and affiliations and did things differently? Would I loose friends, would I be shunned? The fear was paralyzing until I trusted God to keep me through the change. I finally realized that no matter what the fallout became God is more than able to not only keep me, but grow me in grace through the change and transition process. I was “making His love too narrow” and now the fullness, the depth and wideness of His love is so wonderful I am amazed that I waited so long . . .and I am still changing and realizing that’s its an ongoing process that we must throughout all of life be actively engaged.
Mary Wright Baylor
What a brave, bold step, Ruth. Good for you. It’s hard, life-long work, isn’t it??
W. Perry Epes
Mary, what a beautiful, powerful piece of meditative writing. Your use of the image of the bird sanctuary is transformative, and your recalling the origins of our country as a sanctuary itself gives hope to our spiritual enterprise. And your call to us to examine ourselves, and not just blame others but listen to and engage with those we differ with, offers a practical way forward. What a bracing, illuminating experience it has been to listen to Gail read your meditation aloud.
With much love and admiration,
Mary Wright Baylor
Thank you so much. It means so much to hear this from the two of you whom I admire to the moon and back. xoxo
Sarah Frizzell Williams
Beautifully written, Mary. At first I thought it might be about the deep wells of racism we need to examine within ourselves but, when I wondered about the figures I scorn, it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with contempt, which can be just as damaging as hate. And much, much harder to eradicate. We know hate is a sin but we think we are entitled, educated even, to contempt. What would I be without my contempt of “the other?” Not sure I want to answer but the call has come – from you.
Mary Wright Baylor
SO insightful, Sarah. Thank you. xoxoxo