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Love and Unity is Hard

Here are my comments from yesterday's Love and Unity Town Hall meeting at Lindenwood University. (In which I shamelessly stole Dallas Willard's "VIM" acronym: Vision, Intention, Means)

Love and Unity.

This year has been challenging. It’s one thing to say these beautiful words – LOVE and UNITY - and it’s entirely another thing to live them out. We are all now, I imagine, painfully aware of how little we understand or even know one another! The fact is that many of us, including myself!, are simply unable to love our “enemies” or unite across ideological or cultural or socio-economic boundaries, not because we don’t wish to do so, but because we don’t know how.

We don’t know how to really listen. We don’t know how to be discerning without being judgmental. We don’t know how to enter in to somebody else’s experience without losing our own. We may not even know how to make a friend outside of our usual circle. We don’t know how to process our hurt and our resentment. We don’t know how to confront it at all.

Anger is the appropriate emotional response to injustice. It wakes us up, it gets us moving! I dare say, that’s what anger is for. But it can’t last because it’s so draining. Let it fester into a resentment, and it will eat us alive. The only real and lasting moral revolutions are fueled by love. Love multiplies. Love brings energy to our daunting tasks. The only real healing comes through truth and reconciliation. Simon Sinek said that if you fight against something you focus on what you hate. But if you fight for something, you focus on the thing you love. And we are to love one another.

We must find teachers in this way of love. Ones who have mastered themselves, though always imperfectly. These mentors will have given up their own egos, whether their ego was grounded in superiority or inferiority. These sorts of people don’t think much about themselves one way or the other. These masters of human life demonstrate to us how to live in the struggle. How to go through, and not around it. How to hold things in tension with one another. How to live in the discomfort of that, with joy. We walk alongside these people, observe them, and imitate them. We learn from them. These are the people whose goodness quietly ripples out like a healing balm into their physical and social environments. I can think of mine! Dallas, Dorothy, George. If we don’t have love, then we must ask for help. That’s okay. That’s good. Start wherever we’re at.

It’s very, very easy to fit in and please some particular group of people. It’s very, very hard work to stand out, to face truth and to discuss it. To build bridges. It takes moral courage. We’ll have to be tough. We’ll have to take risks. Love is a verb. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be real.

I hope we don’t mistake ourselves. There will be no meaningful change “out there” if there is none “in here”, for who will be brave enough to do it or wise enough to do it correctly? Let us envision now the goodness of a loving and unified community as a goal. That’s the VISION. Then let us as individuals make a conscious decision to do what it takes to pursue that goal (not because it’s fair, but because it’s best). That’s the INTENTION. Finally, let each one of us pick up the tools that have been laid before us – our teachers and mentors, our minds, and our habits. Those are the MEANS. Vision, Intention, Means. Holding in our consciousness that inspiring vision, let us now determine within ourselves to use the means to achieve it. Love never gives up. It never loses faith. It is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

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