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.