I feel inadequate to talk about this, but I’m going to, because even if I don’t cover it well or completely, at least I may help others think about it.
The world is in turmoil. I think everyone knows that. And from what I see, everyone wants to place blame somewhere. I’m very afraid of the mentality I’m seeing: “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”
I can understand the attraction of this idea, but I think it’s problematic on a number of levels. The most important one being: You don’t eradicate hate by promoting hate and divisiveness.
An Eye For An Eye Leave The Whole World Blind
Meeting hate with public shaming and more hatred isn’t likely to tame it; that’s like pouring gas on a fire. When you shame someone, most people don’t respond with, “Sorry; I was wrong.” They respond with anger and defensiveness, trying to explain their side. It reinforces their own idea that they’re right, because you’re treating them like the enemy. No matter how wrong thinking people are, almost no one is a villain in their own mind, and if you really want to bring people together, you won’t treat them as one.
That doesn’t mean that certain behaviors are acceptable; they aren’t. But you can hate the behavior and still show love and kindness toward the person.
People Can Change When Shown Compassion & Understanding
Daryl Davis is a black man who gets to know KKK members. As of December 2016, thirteen of them befriended him and turned in their hoods. Would he have been justified in hating these people who hated him for nothing more than the color of his skin? Yep, absolutely. Would it have changed anything? Unlikely.
Balpreet Kaur was the focus of ridicule online when a man snapped a picture of her. She’s a woman with facial hair. Instead of responding defensively (which would have been understandable), she explained that she’s a Sikh, and that looking different from most people does not interfere with her ability to be of service. As a result of her kind, lovely response, the original poster apologized to her, and she got lots of support. I first read this story in 2012, and I’m still thinking about it. My hope is that everyone who read her story thought twice about cyberbullying from that point forward.
Christian Piccolini became a white supremacist at 16, looking for a place to belong. After he opened up a music store and had contact with people of different races and religions, he said, “I received compassion and empathy from the people I least deserved it from.” That changed his thinking, and he’s now a member of Life After Hate, an organization that helps people leave violent extremist groups.
I don’t know what the solution to everything is. But people who seek to tear others down aren’t usually people who feel good about themselves. It’s not a good excuse, but it is something to think about. Making already insecure and angry people feel worse isn’t the way to change the world. People gravitate toward hate groups in order to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.
People make changes when they feel understood, and more importantly, when they understand others. It’s easy to hate what you don’t know and understand. (This goes for both sides.) But it’s not as easy to hate something known. It’s like Ender said in Ender’s Game:
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.
Don’t Hate The Person
Hate the behavior. Hate the violence. Hate the rhetoric. But when possible, show compassion for the person. Because most people who join these groups aren’t evil; they’re just seeking belonging, understanding, acting out of fear, etc.
Is there a way to promote love and compassion without implicitly condoning bad behavior? I’m not sure. I’m afraid that showing love and compassion to everyone who needs it will be misconstrued as trying to stay in the middle and “not take sides.” I don’t want to do that, but I really believe that hating and shaming anyone creates a bigger problem. I want to be part of the solution.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. But please, no politics.