[Editor’s note: Today’s guest column, by Landon Saunders, provides for us a gentle but timely invitation to do the difficult work of loving and listening to one another.]
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” James 1:19-20
I’ve always loved the old Quaker story of the man who said to another with whom he was very displeased: “Friend, I love thee, but thou art standing where I’m about to strike!”
The story suggests the great difficulty of loving our neighbors. The words, “love your neighbor as yourself,” glide easily off the tongue. But, in reality, it is one of the most difficult things for us to do throughout our lives.
So maybe think of it like this: the one thing in which we each should try to excel is the right treatment of another human being. This would be a good daily goal.
The people we encounter in our daily lives may be different in myriads of ways. They may disappoint us. They may offend us. They may violate our sense of values, morals, and beliefs.
But hurting them, demeaning them, excluding them, choosing words that diminish them, using words that suggest another person is just a little less human than the rest of us—this is unbecoming.
Not valuing others lowers our own value. This is an insidious poison that creeps into our hearts, corrupting our view of both self and neighbor. Such poison breeds fear, distrust, division, and hostilities.
I mourn the present state of things in our nation. Language is coarse, often nasty and mean. Ugly name calling and misrepresentation of views threatens decency and reason—healthy debate.
To any extent we find ourselves a part of such behavior, maybe a good place to begin to change things for the better would be to say in our hearts: this is wrong. I will not be a part of it. I will represent something different to every person I meet—I will treat every person as a neighbor. Beginning today.
Make no mistake about it: living together in peace is a goal we must never give up on if we are to survive—personally, and as a nation.
The story above of the Quaker brings a smile. Not a bad place to end these thoughts.