Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:36-40
It sounds simple and it one sense it is. Love God. Love others. No need for a long list of rules; just love. It’s simple but not easy. Especially that part about loving others. Sure, some people are easy to love but what about that co-worker whose incompetence affects your ability to do your job? Or the neighbor whose dog digs up your flower beds? The guy who cuts you off in traffic, the smelly homeless man on the corner, the telemarketers who interrupt your dinner, the self-righteous relative, the former friend who betrayed you… Some people are difficult to tolerate, let alone love.
So what is the answer? How do we love the unlovable? (pause) What? You don’t know, either? Sometimes it’s really hard, isn’t it? One thing I do know is that hate is never the answer but there seems to be way too much of it. Some even hate entire groups of people they don’t know. “They” don’t look like me. “They” speak another language. “They” worship differently. “They” are gay. “They” don’t share my political views. “They.”
Maybe part of the answer is to stop thinking in terms of “they” and start thinking “we”. The Preamble to our Constitution begins, “We the People…” and that’s a good start. Despite the acrimonious nature of politics, we are still one people. But what about the rest of the world? Surely we don’t have to love all of them, too. I mean, some (gasp) aren’t even Christian!
I will be the first to admit that there are individuals I have trouble loving. And if I’m perfectly honest, there are certain groups of people I have trouble relating to. I think that’s the key, though. It’s much easier to hate, or at least mistrust, those we don’t really know or understand. It is sometimes too easy to remain in our own little worlds, interacting solely with those very much like ourselves. We fear, or mistrust, or yes, sometimes even hate those who are different. In order to experience more love in our own lives and spread love to others we have to step out of our comfort zone sometimes. We need to learn about other cultures, other religions, other viewpoints. As Atticus tells Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
And it’s just that sort of wisdom one can garner from a good book. I’ve long believed that one of the best ways to gain understanding and sympathy for others is by reading. A good author will make it easy to climb into the skin of a character and “walk around in it.” Once we know a person’s circumstances, background, experiences and thought processes, it becomes easier to understand them, feel compassion toward them, and yes, even love them.
In a world which seems to get smaller and more interconnected all the time, we cannot afford to hate or fear or mistrust others simply because their lives and viewpoints are different than ours. If we desire to live in harmony with others just remember, love is all we need.
This post was written for the blogging event, Love Beats Hate.