When I am surprised at acts of hate in our world, I remind myself that hate is easy. It’s easy to dismiss people and keep them at a distance. It’s even easy to see them as inferior, or even subhuman.
It’s easy to exclude those who seem different, to decide you do not want their kind infiltrating your ways. I have learned it is easy to believe a stereotype of a group. It justifies keeping them in a box, and it keeps you from making an effort to understand their ways or connect with them. If you believe them beneath you, then it validates your notion that it’s a waste of your time to get to know them.
It’s so easy to say someone is lazy and only wants a handout, that way you are not responsible for helping them. It is thus, justifiable if these individuals suffer in their poverty — because after all, it is their fault. If they had only tried harder, in the right way, really tried, they would make it.
I learned that it’s really easy to keep people in their place by deciding and reminding them that they do not have what it takes. It’s so easy to stick with the status quo, to keep the power in the hands of the few. After all they are the ones who know how it works.
I learned that it’s so easy to say “It’s never going to change, it’s larger than me.” It’s so easy to throw our hands up in the air — in despair and frustration.
Yet, I have also learned that we do have power; each of us, each individual has power. It’s a power so great that it overcomes any obstacle in its way. It’s the power to have the courage to love.
Love takes courage because when you love you are leaving yourself vulnerable. When you love you care and you worry. When you love you are exposed, you are in the open, and you can be hurt.
Hate is a cowardly act, an act of hiding, of keeping yourself sheltered from the fray. The heroes are the people who have the courage to love even when they don’t have to. Those who understand that love is our life’s journey, that our responsibility in this world is to spend it exposed and vulnerable, loving those we don’t have to and even hurting with their hurt, feeling their pain.
Love is an act of courage! Love is action. Choosing to look someone in the eyes and not dismiss them is love in action. Choosing to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, house the homeless, treat the sick, is love in action. Choosing to listen and share your time is an act of love. Choosing to include people who do not look like you, pray like you or believe like you are acts of love.
I am reminded of the biblical scripture: “If I speak in the tongue of mortals and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing… Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
In this new decade let us choose love. Let us show up with the courage to love in spaces and places where we have not ventured into and don’t have to be. When we witness cowardly acts of hate — subtle or obvious — let’s have the courage to stand up to the hate and act with the courage of love. Love is divine and love is the ultimate path to peace.
Simone Talma Flowers serves as the executive director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas, whose mission is to connect people to each other to cultivate peace and respect through interfaith dialogue, service and celebration.