Christ never taught us to hate others. Lucifer is in hell because of vanity. Should we, as Conservatives and Christians, be identified with hatred and vanity? Let me be clear, as a believer in individual liberty, it is not my intent to tell others what to do. This is more a periodic self-check because, the way I see it, I need more people on my side, not fewer. I am just convinced that passion can get in the way of persuasion at times.
I spent a few days at a monastery a while back. I arrived late and was greeted by a very kind, 90 year-old monk. He took me straight to the kitchen to share a simple meal of fruitcake and peanut butter. I told him I thought it must be very hard to be a monk. He smiled back, with peanut butter on the side of his face and said, “Oh, it’s easy to be a monk when you live in a monastery. What you are trying to do, now that’s hard!”
He continued, “It is hard living in a world of vanity and hatred and trying to change yourself and lead others to Christ. You know, I’ve always believed the greatest sin was the first sin – vanity. Vanity is what got Lucifer cast from Heaven, and why the apple got bit in the first place. It leads to hatred and separation from God’s love.”
I thought, as great as our country is, it is a vain country filled with greed, selfishness, power, judgment and coercion. So I asked him, how do you fight it?
“Well, the opposite of vanity and hatred is humility and love. We are taught to love others as ourselves. Now that doesn’t mean an erotic or vain love. It is fine to be disappointed and angry with others, just like you are with yourself at times. You just can’t hate. It is hard to not hate when you see the bad. But the bad is in everyone and it comes from being human, we all have it, murderer and Mother Teresa, and it is our sin, our fault. But the good, the good is not from us, it is from God. When you find good in others, you find God, which opens them up to a sharing of God’s love. That is how you stay humble, not judging and thinking you are better than they are.”
He was right, his lesson has been hard to follow, but I have noticed that when I have followed it, it has led to lots of open dialogue with others of differing views. That openness also allows for persuasion.
During my career as a psychologist and hostage-negotiator, I have dealt with many resistant to change. They seem to fall into two simple categories, those that are and are not open to change. You can’t do much with those resistant to even the possibility of change. Don’t waste your time. Move on.
That doesn’t mean you don’t provide fact-based argument against false claims without getting dragged into the mud with them. But there is a risk of getting too emotional with them because it can chase off those that would have been open to dialogue. Why would those open to dialogue even consider it now as they hear this “Christian Conservative” spewing hatred and trying to force my view on others?
I have been taught to not even think about doing that with a hostage-taker. The only way a hostage-taker is influenced to release the hostage is after common ground has been established. Even a hostage-taker is open to change and persuasion. Hostage negotiation has a 95% success rate. The negotiator listens and demonstrates understanding, even when yelled at. That leads to a strange rapport. At that point, the hostage taker is open to problem solving and being influenced with reason, because things have calmed down. When was the last time anyone changed a core belief because others tried to cram it down their throat when everyone was emotional?
Shouldn’t I treat my opponent at least as well as a hostage-taker, if I truly want them to change? On the other hand, If I want to vent, I vent. I just have to remember, venting may chase off others.
Image: Frances and the Leper (Rivotorto) courtesy of Christopher John SSF from Chuncheon, South Korea