I could barely finish my sandwich …and that’s saying something. Sitting at a sub shack, grabbing lunch before I headed back to the studio, I was watching a Holocaust survivor memorial service on the big, mounted screen above me. The final prayer almost took my breath away.
“Father …PLEASE DO NOT forgive the men and women who carried out this horror. Make their torment greater and harsher in the after life than their victims’ horror was in this life.” That’s not exactly it …but it’s close. I just stared. I actually couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No one at the ceremony batted an eye and no one commenting on it from the big, mounted screen seemed to be bothered by it either. Did they not realize they were sanctioning hatred …IN a prayer?
As the man praying went on about punishing Nazis on the other side, I just whispered to myself, “but dude …they know not what they do.” All I could see was Jesus hanging on the cross …praying for the guys ripping him limb from limb.
I went back to the studio and wrote a song called “They Know Not What They Do.” It affected me then. And it still affects me today.
At the end of one year and the beginning of another, we always take stock. We decide to get in shape or make more money or accomplish certain goals. We take inventory of where we are in the world and where we want to be. And we get another shot at it.
I, too, was a goal maker at one time. I used to fill out 3X5 cards and write encouragements I could read on the inside of my notebook. I used to get my game face on and get focussed and get ready to shake the world and blah, blah, blah.
Now, I find myself (on New Year’s Eves) wondering about and pondering concepts. Something I’ve been pondering more and more is the nature and essence of love. It seems that everyone wants and needs love. But is that really what they want?
While watching the year-end festivities on TV, I saw a commercial (from Google) about searching for love and acting on love, etc, etc. It was full of video clips from the past year, of people talking about love and lecturing us about love and admonishing us to love. On the surface it was a great ad. I smiled. Then I got sort of angry. Google has been systematically lobbying to essentially drive content creators out of business. They are talking about love …but they are not acting in love. I kinda wish they would just be honest.
And still …for me to fully participate in love, I cannot hate Google. I want good things for them. I want their employees to prosper and thrive. Even when I see the billionaire head of their company, snidely talk about how we really need global socialism – while he is actively dismantling my profession – I have to love him. Or I’m not engaging in love at all.
The song says, “shower the people you love with love.” I like that. But I’m not sure just showing love to the people you love …is actually love. It’s a mutual good feeling. It’s good for you and it’s important. But only loving people you “like” might just be something closer to emotional tribalism. Love is tougher than that.
One of the concepts I strove to engraft into my life last year (at this time) was the idea of wanting more for others than I wanted for myself. And I paid special attention to the people I DIDN’T like. Those were the people I knew I needed to love. It’s easy to love your friends and puppies and babies and people who agree with you and your grandma. That requires literally nothing from you. It is not active. It is not considered. And it is certainly not dangerous.
But I’m trying to learn to love the people I don’t like. And that’s when you realize how far off the mark you are. I want good things for Hillary Clinton. I want good things for Donald Trump. I want good things for the people who make negative comments about my work. I want good things for the college snowflakes who make me roll my eyes. I want good things for the people on social media who spew hatred and disgust.
This is the tough part of love.
Can I want good things for KKK members? Can I want good things for ISIS soldiers? These are the parts of love Jesus talked about. And they are the parts we’re still grappling with two thousand years later.
Showing love to someone doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them or share a pizza. I even believe you can love to someone and know that they must be destroyed. Those concepts can be held in tandem …even though they feel contradictory. If someone is about to behead a child, they have to be stopped …probably killed. And you can love them and pray for their soul as you’re eliminating their scourge from humanity. I truly believe that. But it is a difficult reconciliation.
Driving with my father, a couple of years ago, we were discussing Hitler and Mengele and Nazis and WWII. I asked him if he thought God/love/Jesus could forgive Hitler. His answer? “Son, if God’s love isn’t big enough for Hitler …then it’s not big enough.” And that stays with me …even though we know Hitler couldn’t be allowed to live anymore.
So, even though I may consider you to be a bad person …I cannot hate you. And that’s hard. Because hating something you think deserves to be hated is really easy and it feels SOOOO good. But the moment you allow yourself to hate, because …you know …they deserve it …you’re becoming the very thing you think you’re standing up to.
It’s one of the great paradoxes of love. And it’s probably why we’re still on earth …to figure it out.
All I know is, the less I hate …the more liberated I feel. The less anger I project on those I consider to be “wrong” about something …the lighter my soul is.
And I hope I never find myself praying for someone else’s punishment. Even if they’re a monster.
I would never want to be the reason someone doesn’t finish a sandwich.
Here’s to learning to love the unlovable …in the new year.