Silence. Distance. Avoidance. These aggressions have been active in my life recently and are the most common signs of people who are not living in the present. They are caused by our desire to judge others – to strike back at them for the way in which they have hurt us. We instinctively know that if we strike them, they will strike back. So we avoid them and paste on a heartless smile if we do see them.
The problem that I find is that when I suppress my resentment, frustration or anger, I begin to numb out. I become incapable of enjoying the present moment. My thoughts wander regularly and frequently to the injustice of the situation. I role-play imaginary conversations with the person whom I wish to judge, seeing myself righteously pointing out their wrong-doing. Unlike 15 years ago, I am aware that I am doing the very thing I don’t want to do. Yet I do it anyway – attacking them in my heart. St. Paul spoke of this very thing himself: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)
When I numb out, all the old health symptoms I thought I had overcome permanently, begin to return. My sleep is poor. Unexplained aches in my joints begin to throb again. My memory fails me more often. I slip into multi-tasking, talking on the phone while reading my computer screen. My heart hardens and I put up walls to protect myself from being vulnerable to attacks and further hurts. Love diminishes within me and my sense of being connected with God also diminishes.
Then the good Lord puts something in my hands to give me perspective. I am reading Phillip Yancey’s new book, “Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive The Church.” In it, he paints a clear picture of 13 people who struggled with being “good” in a “bad” world. All are worth mentioning but none more so than Martin Luther King Jr. He truly got it and he was willing to pay the ultimate price for it.
An inspiring example comes from a speech King gave to students working on the battle for civil rights in the early 1960’s. “There is the danger [that] the us or them mentality takes hold and we do actually, begin to run the risk of joining ranks with the very people we are opposing. I worry about this a lot these days.”
Martin Luther King Jr. understood what it means to love your enemy and to forgive seventy times seven times. As Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.” Luke 6:32
Jesus didn’t promise it would be easy. And it isn’t.