128 Power of love stronger than name-calling 20 Jul 2021
How to see the problem
Are other people kind to you? Do they encourage you, support what you are doing? Does it make you feel close to them? Of course! We call that choosing your friends. The friendship rewards you, and you are happy to choose them as your friends. You are thankful that they are there to be chosen. The world is good.
Now let’s look at the other people, the ones you don’t count as friends right now. How are they different from your friends? You probably get less satisfaction from being around them; they are different in a way that makes you uncomfortable. They don’t have to be bad people to be not-friends. In fact, they could be well-meaning but clumsy in expressing it. Often their attention to ideals looks like arrogance, the claim to superiority. They think their friendship should reward you, but their behavior offers no appeal. In the extreme, these people are unintentionally offensive.
On the other hand, non-friends could also be people who are deliberately offensive. You don’t avoid them because the relationship is unrewarding. Instead, you keep your distance for your own defense. That becomes your iron-clad excuse for not working to remove the barriers.
Let’s examine our relationships from the other side of the chess board. Today we look at you the way those other people look at you. What is it about you that makes them uncomfortable? This is the easier way to study our question. It is easier to get into your own mind than to get into someone else’s. After you understand yourself in detail, you can turn the board around and apply what you learned to those other people. It is all right to expect them to be human just as you are. That means they also contain the potential for good, and they will be happier when they realize it.
How to apply the solution
Isolation is the problem
Are you surrounded by people who are crude and disrespectful? Do they engage in name-calling? You know how that feels. Looking from their side of the chess board, imagine that is the way they feel about you. You will tell me that you are always respectful and would never badmouth anybody. You are not that kind of person. Well, that is exactly what those people think about themselves. That’s right, they think you are name-calling, insulting them by not appreciating what they are. Try on this shoe for size: do you ever say to yourself, “those people just don’t understand”? There you go! You have just called them ignorant.
Isolation is my problem
We are inundated with name-calling in broadcast media. After a close friend called my attention to it, I found it has invaded places I thought were pinnacles of virtue. Listening carefully to speakers I had highly regarded, I discovered they were needlessly disparaging the political “other side.” Instead of building up a constructive proposal, they were trashing those who disagreed with them. They had descended to name-calling. Just as my friend had said, this behavior is characteristic across the political spectrum. When I see how pervasive this is, my knee-jerk reaction is to isolate—to protect myself. Instead of bringing people harmoniously together, I pull away to “purer ground.” What I need to do instead is to dive into the melee, not as a contender, but as the redeeming voice of love.
Most marketing aims at convincing people they have pain points and selling them some form of relief. Giving expression to anger is a bad counterfeit relief. It never helps to belittle a person because ze disagrees with my ideas. Negative reaction offends the other party and speaks poorly of my character. To build a better world around myself, I must build up you.
Friends to the rescue
I have friends who can do this for me. When I blurt out an unseasoned assertion (a polite name for “stupid idea”), they know how to disarm it gently. Sometimes the kind answer is to remind me of a possibility I have overlooked: “well, it might have been like this instead.” That feeds me a fresh train of thought, something I sorely need when I have spoken in the extreme. When I absorb the suggestion calmly, it builds friendship instead of straining it. The tone is not so much that we are disagreeing. It is more that we are comparing our thinking.
Another healing response is a polite question. Instead of the abrupt “do you really believe that?” my friend can ask, “have you compared that to this alternative idea?” Thinking of alternatives helps me redirect attention to friendly exchange, away from hostile confrontation. Have you guessed what comes next? Instead of thinking the other person stupid, I recognize that I have just received a gentle nudge in a peaceful direction. Waging the peace lies in recognizing and accepting these nudges.
What does not help
I cannot heal the fracas by pushing myself on other people. Trying to shape my surroundings to my liking, I look for support and agreement. Reaching that goal is not a matter of bashing everything else. Instead, it involves bringing some happiness to the situation. It is best when I can find something in the other side that I can encourage. When these others sense any supportive agreement, they lower their defenses and are open to additional happiness. What name-calling poisons, encouragement heals.
I do not praise my associates for badmouthing anything, just as I do not badmouth them. I won’t reinforce what I am trying to cure. Supporting and encouraging the other side means finding something there that is praiseworthy. Addressing that redeeming virtue shows that I come to help, not to reconstruct. When these others are genuinely loved, they participate by healing themselves. This growth requires the absence of name-calling.
When a badmouthing political speech recently popped up in my web browser, my friend’s “neutrality advice” came to mind and I realized that I was not receiving an urgent warning in the name of truth. By the tone of the speech, I knew that I was being bombarded with badmouthing. This speaker I had admired was manipulating a worst-case impression. The rhetoric was unmistakably negative instead of encouraging some positive outcome. That speaker needs to abandon mudslinging and replace it with a constructive proposal. Making the good outcome real is defeated by vilifying those who do not yet agree.
In an earlier article I asked why Americans hate each other. That is the way they behave. My point was that it never improves the world to respond with negative emotion. Therefore, I strongly recommend that the best thing you can do for your country is to recognize the emergence of negative emotion and turn the speech off. We can afford to lose the ideas that are presented in anger because we have the strength of ideas that obviously come from a place of love. That power is irresistible.
To turn bad speech off, I am clearly not saying we should stand up in church and shout down a minister who is rabble rousing. Love (sometimes called God) requires us to extricate ourselves from the hate, and radiate love (not shouting) from our hearts. That quiet power (soul force) is the one that is irresistible.
When others are name-calling, it is all right to expect them to be human just as you are. They, too, contain the potential for good. You would never badmouth anybody, but consider: do you ever say to yourself, “those people just don’t understand”? There you go! You have just called them ignorant. The best thing you can do for your country is to recognize the emergence of negative emotion and turn the speech off. Love (sometimes called God) requires us to extricate ourselves from hate and radiate love from our hearts. That quiet power (soul force) is irresistible.