Hi Friends,
I don’t normally do this, but I had such a lovely and helpful conversation with one of our group members that I wanted to share. I wrote in my last update that “We are stronger together from a place of love against those who are not making mistakes, but who are acting intentionally from hate.” This came across as very adversarial and I think we have too much of this in our country right now. So I’d like to adjust my thinking and advocacy accordingly.
Frank reached out to me about this (which I share with his permission):
“I would only ask that we try to extend compassion to others, those not on the journey and even those whose actions are hateful and perpetuation what we are trying to fight against. I am not a person of faith but am a student if religious teachings and all religions call for compassion to all, even those who would do us harm. The words of Gandhi and Dr. King, for example, are full of such universal compassion. It is not self-righteous forgiveness that they advocated but love for all humanity. Hard to do but only love and compassion can move those broken souls away from the hate they feel, hate so often caused by their own fear, insecurities, and suffering.”
I responded:
“You are absolutely right about extending love to all. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and discussing it with my kids. But I have been hesitating for some reason with this group platform because it feels… too accepting of things that are unacceptable? It’s so easy, particularly in this age of extremes, to do what I talk about in my last post, to abandon the less than perfect, to shun those who do not condemn those who stray, even a little.

“What I want to be able to say is what you said, that we need to extend love to all, in fact, perhaps especially to those who are so full of hate. I don’t come from a religious background and I am not part of a faith community, so I feel somewhat on shaky ground (although I did study King and Gandhi in college), but the idea of universal love for humanity resonates with me.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how do you navigate the balance between objecting to someone’s actions and still exuding love for the person? Without being self-righteous? Between expecting each other and ourselves to do better and also feeling like we are each enough as we are now? I struggle with this as an activist and as a parent of young children. I would love to hear more.”
Frank responded:
“I too struggle to practice universal love. I can sometimes meditate on compassion and feel it working in me but it is a life’s journey and I likely will not get there. The Tibetan Buddhists speak to me when they talk about everyone suffering and therefore everyone being worthy of compassion. I think they do not distinguish between compassion and love but for me love is something tied up with family and relationships so thinking about compassion works better for me.”
So I’m landing on compassion as the way forward. We can be compassionate towards everyone, because we are all familiar with the sufferings of humanity, no matter our experiences or the way we show up in the world. In Whitney Parnell’s White Allyship training, she focused at the end about people being on a continuum of racism and that the most important thing is that we do not move people backwards in this work. We need to engage people with compassion. We need to be willing to listen and to understand where someone is coming from, even when we disagree. This is becoming a lost art in our lives, in our country, and we must work to bring it back.
I want to take a moment to share a funny story. I had been talking to my kids about how some people in our country have been focused on hate, and that they grow in power when they spread more hate around. And that the way to fight hate is with love, so we have to respond to hate with love instead. I actually made “hate” a bad word in my house because there’s just too much of it around. My kids are very into super heroes and my middle one is at the black/white stage where everything is either good or bad. So my middle child, who has been expressing her feelings very strongly (in the hate direction), turns around to me and says, “I love Donald Trump!” Which, of course, is not at all what I wanted her to say, exactly, but it was so hilarious in her literal interpretation of what I was teaching her, and so jarring to hear, that I had to laugh.
And yes, I gave her other things she can say that will be less threatening to our friends and neighbors should she choose to express her love of everyone in public.
This work is not one of perfection. This is messy, uncomfortable, awkward, painful, difficult work. it is never-ending and is often unappreciated if not directly challenged by our friends and neighbors and families. And it must continue, with compassion (including for ourselves!).
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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