One of the greatest disrespects we level at others is to make assumptions about who they are without ever listening to them. Without ever considering their story. To have another base their opinion of me on what they think they know about me without ever having spoken to me is disingenuous and hurtful.
When I was younger, Mom once accused me of stealing cookies from her special container because I happened to be in the kitchen reading a book when she made the discovery. She became angry, making accusations without asking me anything. I was disciplined because of circumstantial evidence–the wrong place at the wrong time.
What hurt the most was she never listened to my explanations. I had no voice; I was just a scapegoat.
Unfortunately. there are those without a voice, who are silenced by others by the circumstances of their birth, their heritage. This doesn’t mean their voice has less value. We need to learn to listen, to appreciate what others who are different from us have to say.
It’s how we learn.
People are protesting now to be heard.
Some are listening.
Police knelt with protesters in Orlando to support those without a voice. Many in Minnesota, especially from churches, have turned out to help clean up the damage done by looters.
Pain happens, and if it isn’t addressed it can grow into a hatred that doesn’t care about respect or responsibility. It is a self-serving and uncontrolled emotion that impacts all who enter its domain.
Booker T. Washington, who was born into slavery and grew to be one of the most influential African Americans of his time knew what hatred was. He experienced it first hand. But his attitude about allowing hatred to motivate or control his actions was clear. He said, “”I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equality for people of all colors, said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”
Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa, spent 27 years in prison for leading a campaign to sabotage his government. Upon his release, he worked at reconciliation between his country’s racial groups. He stated, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Our souls long for love, the love inspired by the God who made us. God loves us and gives us the ability and capacity to love others–even those we may perceive as unlovable.
The greater good is found in taking the time to listen to others. Even if what they’re saying are things I struggle with wanting to hear. My focus needs to be on the needs of others who are hurting and afraid.
Riot isn’t the language of the unheard; love is.
We can all be taught to love.
Will we choose to love and listen?