Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fear, Hate & Choice

I started this week praying for those who have died because of bigotry and hate. Among the many families and communities, I have been praying for the people of Toulouse, France and for the people of Sanford, Florida and for the people of San Francisco, and for the people all over the world each day who are choosing the hate that grows from fear.

All of us know fear. And many of us know well the hate that can grow from it.  We've suffered it ourselves. We may have even been the direct targets of hatred, dehumanized and denied dignity and mercy.

But we have a choice about what to do with fear. We have a choice when we hate not to act viciously, but to deal with that hate in constructive ways. We are responsible for our actions. That's why I also have been praying for those who have committed the hate crimes we see in the news and the many hate crimes we do not see, the ones that result in crime victim suicides and battered spirits, the ones that leave awful scars and often draw victims into the sense that they, too, have no choice but to hate, to bully, to destroy.

We need one another's help and encouragement to make choices not from fear and hate, but for dignity, mercy, and respect. We cannot love our neighbors as ourselves without learning about our neighbors, taking away the fearfulness that comes from strangeness, the distance of not knowing and choosing not to know.

I've met plenty of fear and hate in my life. I'm fairly certain I will meet some more, though I would be happy to be proved wrong.

I also know from my own struggles that I could have chosen hate myself. I make a choice, each and every day for love and respect, for learning and for mercy rather than the road of bitterness, isolation, and rage.

My faith is part of sustaining me and guiding me in that choice, just as faith is for billions of other people who are religious and who are choosing a faithful path without hatred for others who are not like ourselves.

Let us meet and learn about each other. Let us grow together in our splendid diversity, with the different gifts and ways of wisdom we have. Hatred will not cease by hatred. Love is what transforms us for peace. But the first thing we must do to get there is make a choice, when we are about to choose hate, to turn, ask for help, and choose a path of hope instead.

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