Saturday, April 08, 2017

St Francis' Prayer: Let Me Sow Love

I've been praying St Francis' prayer fairly regularly lately, where the beginning runs:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
I found myself wondering: How do I sow love? I know so many people who are full of hatred, or plagued by hateful thoughts, or (at any rate) what they say is reliably about their hatred of others. If we want to be an instrument of that peace, how do we do it?

Love is easier to sow where there isn't hatred. Where there isn't hatred, love can be planted by people getting to know each other: showing common interest and common ground, showing admirable traits or honest struggles. Those things tend to build a bridge. But where there is hatred ... how do we sow love?

I have to start by saying that I've seen it done badly. I've sometimes seen one person who is determined to force another person to say something nice about someone they hate. They maneuver their target into a position where they must grudgingly admit some small decency in someone they dislike. I've never seen it work in changing attitudes; it seems to be more about scoring points. It's about making the other person lose. After that, they have even more resentment. And it ignores that there might be a reason or a history behind it in the first place. Very few people come into their thoughts and feelings without a reason. For hatred, there is often a history of distrust or fear, or someone may have harmed them, or they may have believed an accusation without knowing whether it was true. Or it may have even been true.

So here are my first thoughts on how to sow love where there is hatred:

If there is legitimate reason for someone to be angry with the other, I want to acknowledge that the complaint is valid. If there is legitimate cause for fear of harm or loss, I need to consider that and give full weight to their voice. If I belittle someone's real concern, it will only increase the resentment and decrease my credibility for not recognizing it. If I haven't listened, I haven't earned the right to speak.

There is another angle here: Depending on the cause of the hatred, and the target of the hatred: Does the person have regular contact with someone who nurtures and encourages the hatred? Almost every news outlet, and a growing number of other TV shows, promote hatred of some group or person or viewpoint. There are some groups of like-minded people that seem to exist, or fuel themselves, by encouraging hatred of people with opposing points of view. Sometimes the hatred would fade if it weren't fed.

If someone regularly reinforces their own hatred, we may need to start by simply not getting caught up in it. I've come to appreciate people whose facebook posts are about things that are wholesome and not divisive. Anything that is divisive, if done badly, promotes hatred. Anything that is unifying, if done well, promotes friendship and love.


Martin LaBar said...

"Anything that is divisive, if done badly, promotes hatred. Anything that is unifying, if done well, promotes friendship and love." Maybe ANYTHING divisive promotes hatred, whether done badly or not.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Martin

The complicated cases -- the ones that earned the qualification there -- are things like teams or families on the one hand, or standing by something that we know to be true even while there are people who deny it. Families and teams (when done right) are unifying but do not include everyone, so even at their best can become divisive. The truth (when done right) is unifying; when done wrong it's divisive; but there is no unity to be found by denying the validity of truth.

In a perfect world I think it would be simpler.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF