This recent mid-term election leaves me feeling very anxious. Normally I am not really too political. I try to exercise my voting right/privilege, but I try not to get too much into the debates and instead remind myself to “render unto Caesar the thing’s that are Caesar’s.” But of course, when I am a TV junkie at times, it is impossible to escape the negative ads, from BOTH sides. I find myself wondering about the vitriol and animosity that gets parlayed into a 30 second spot to be filtered through my consciousness over and over and over….and it seems they are designed not merely to sway my opinion, but to try and cause me to revile someone’s opponent. Almost HATE them. And the people on the sidelines fall in line with hateful words, deeds and actions. (Anyone see that one guy actually STOMP on a lady’s head for demonstrating her disagreement? Scary.)
It makes me truly wonder though, not just “who is right?” but why each side tries to paint the other as almost evil. And it made me wonder further, “what makes someone worthy of my intense dislike” and is that even necessary? If you had to ask me a question like “Who, alive right now, do you find to be the most despicable, awful human being?” I could probably come up with a few names that I truly think do not show much compassion for their fellow man. If pressed further, I am sure without belaboring the point too long, I could google some really vile despots or terrorists in the news who regularly call for the killing and annihilation of innocent people. And then I think, ok, but how likely is it that my hating them will have any impact whatsoever on either them or me? Well, on them probably not much, but if I allow myself to fall into a mindset of “hate” then it most CERTAINLY will affect me, and not in a good way! They will, in some way, have won a battle over me of which they will forever remain unaware! So let me ask YOU, “who do YOU think is the worst person alive?”
Now think for a moment, what are the REAL chances and likelihood that you will EVER have to deal with them directly and on a personal level? Probably very slim. BUT, how often do we miss the chance to offer true forgiveness or compassion to the people across the street? Or the person who cut us off in traffic? Or someone who USED to be our best friend but now causes us a painful, visceral reaction? Those chances are probably pretty high. It may be cliché to say it, but forgiveness is not something you do to help another person, it is a gift we give ourselves. Forgiving someone is not condoning what we believe to be their transgressions, as much as it is releasing them from a constant judgement that does not allow them to become better in our estimation, and releasing ourselves from the work involved in maintaining an injury. Also, true forgiveness may NEVER be known by the person who hurt us. We do not forgive by telling ourselves over and over “so and so REALLY hurt me, but I forgive them.” That is still a judgement.
Further, I think we operate on an energy system that is unduly taxed by holding grudges, nursing grievances, and being ever conscious of our wounds. If you had a sudden emergency that required 70% of your energy, you would be at a deficit if over 30% was tied up in past hurts and grudges.
I am happy that I will probably never have to sit down and have tea with George W. Bush. I feel good that Anne Coulter is not a member of my book club. I know that Glenn Beck will never come to my door to sell Girl Scout cookies. But the people I do run into at tea, or at the book store or raising money for a youth group are those to whom I should always be ready and willing to offer true compassion. Because I am going to need it from them.