Love Your Enemies

I first noticed an alarming trend nearly 20 years ago with a rise of rhetoric surrounding “bullies.” Bullies it seemed were everywhere and suddenly it was imperative that we hit them. Looking at trends on Google NGrams, suggesting violence against bullies has blown through levels not seen since the run up to world war 2.

I am not entirely sure what this means. It could be that we mention bullies far more than in the past. Indeed dividing by total mentions of the word “bully” does make the data somewhat less alarming.

The fact remains, however, that we are increasingly likely to be tolerant of violence against undesirable groups. The thinking is that, if only these evil people had been stopped early on, they wouldn’t progress to committing the atrocities that we have historically seen.

Unfortunately, this fighting fire with fire is the source of all those historic atrocities. The people who committed them were not different from us. They were the good guys who were eliminating what they saw as evil, only to wake up one day to realize they had become a might bit carried away with the guillotine. What happened is that they allowed hate to take root.

It may have taken root in a way that seemed virtuous in the time that they lived. Perhaps they were being mistreated and oppressed by some other person or group. Perhaps they were merely envious of someone who did not seem to deserve the good fortune they enjoyed. In any case the initial allowance to hate was probably reserved for someone quite deserving. Once you hate, however, it is really really hard to stop at the seed.

If you hate one person, how do you feel about the people who agree with them, support them, enable them, or benefit from their actions? Historically it tends to spread to all of the above and even to those who merely suggest that the original hate isn’t the best policy. To think that we can allow ourselves to hate just one person and not have it affect anyone else is naive.

The solution to all this was proposed by a carpenter from Nazareth a while back. He suggested that you “love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.” It is a unique challenge, but it is the only workable solution. Every confrontation needs to be treated like contending with a brother. Yes we struggle against them but are always looking for a moment of reconciliation.

This post is brought on by the terrible situation between Russia and Ukraine. I am firmly behind the cause of the Ukraine to defend themselves, but it is with dismay that I see some of the rhetoric around the conflict that will further otherize the Russian people. Zeleskyy in a speech today asserted that the Russian soldiers were not humans, and that the Ukrainian people would never forgive or forget.

That is their right, they have suffered unjustly, but cultivating that hate will not win the hearts and minds of the Russian people, which is necessary to end the conflict permanently. Adding to this is what it does to the soul of the hater, if I am no longer looking for reconciliation with my brother, then that moment of possible coming together turns into a moment of revenge and a moment of true evil.

So for those who have been tempted to say, “We don’t hate Russian’s. We hate Putin.” please be wary of where that can lead. There are many in Russia who agree with Putin. Does that hate extend to them? If so, how far does it go and what suffering will result?

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