Acts of horror and violence take place daily. They take place on small scales, within homes, as children cower in fear from an upraised hand, and they take place on large scales, with bombs going off in market places and guns fired into crowds. We pay more attention to some of these acts than we do others. Some of them get a lot of media scrutiny and some do not. Some of that’s political – probably a lot of it is – and some of it is racial and some of it is economical.
When we pay attention, we like to find someone to blame. I think this is understandable. When something horrible happens, we want to know why. It might not make us feel safer, per say, but it makes us feel better if there is someone – anyone – we can hold responsible.
Someone we can vilify.
Someone we can hate.
That’s what I want to talk about here. The hate.
The thing that disturbs me most about large scale acts of horror and terrorism, as much as the acts itself, is the hatred and the blame.
I saw an exchange on social media about recent acts of terrorism, in which the original poster said, We should pray for everyone. Pray for the people who were injured. Pray for the families of the dead. And pray for the people who did this, because they have lost their humanity.
The responses to her post were angry and encompassed not only the people who committed the terrorism, but all of the people of their background, and also refugees from other nations and said, quite simply. No. No, we will not pray for these people – we will not pray for any of these people. No. We should take up arms against all of them. They are vile and disgusting and we hate them. Look! Look what they did! How can you ask us to pray for them? What is wrong with you? We need to destroy them.
I can’t help but think that this is the same conversation that the group who committed these acts had, if someone among them dared say, “Let us not do this thing. Let us pray for these people instead.”
I can’t find it within me to hate anyone. I just can’t. I understand the inclination but I can’t embrace it. I hate the violence. I hate the horror. I just don’t know how to hate people. I don’t know how to hate people who can’t see another path. I don’t know how to want to hurt someone because they are so desperate that the only thing that they know how to do is lash out. I don’t know how to declare war against an entire people for the actions of a few people.
This is what I think: the heart is full of open spaces. They can be filled up with love, or they can be filled up with something else. I will always choose to fill the open spaces in my heart with love and light and hope, because to do otherwise is to become the thing that I abhor. When that happens? That’s when the people who would cause harm win. They cannot win unless you allow their actions to fill you with hate and fear.
Please don’t fill the open spaces in your heart with darkness.