Don’t Hate and Pray
A few days ago, Nancy Pelosi was asked by a journalist if she was undertaking the impeachment process because she hated the President. Her response (paraphrased) was she has learned to not hate through the practice of her Catholic Faith. Impeachment, she said, was about holding the president accountable to keeping his oath of office (behavior). She went on to say that she prays for the president often. This comment brought me back to when I first learned that someone’s behavior and our affection for them, can be different.
My career has focused around training adults in different environments, public, corporate and spiritual. In my first corporate job I took a course and later taught a training program where I learned to separate my perception of someone (personal opinion) with the facts of their behavior. This has served me well as a supervisor, parent, friend, and definitely a clergy person. For example, if an employee was chronically late, I didn’t tell them they were worthless, (opinion) instead, I spoke with them about their measurable behavior of being late and the impact on the rest of the office staff.
Each of us has been faced with situations where people we love make choices we wouldn’t. What do we do with this conflict? Our young child may stick their tongue out at someone and do we stop loving them for this behavior? Or, do we love them while providing feedback on how the behavior impacted us or the other and brainstorm together other ways our child can express their feelings? I have had many conversations with friends (who I love) that I do not want to talk with them on the phone while they are driving (behavior) because their attention is split and both of us are worth being tended to fully on a phone call. These are simple examples; and of course conflict can be more complex.
Fifteen years ago I traveled the country and Canada teaching people how to forgive. I spoke in New Thought Churches, doctors offices, some corporate offices, and with the media. At churches I would give a mid-week or Sunday talk and then follow it up with a workshop. On my very first stop on the National Forgiveness Tour, a husband and wife took the workshop together. The husband had embezzled money from his employer and was headed to jail. He was a gambling addict and was working through a lot of clean up, self-forgiveness and behavior atonement. His wife refused to give up on him and stood by him with deep love as she walked with him through the legal process. She was a solid example of disapproving of behavior (gambling, embezzling), but loving the person. A mother in this same small group had a son in jail for child molestation and rape and she was SO ashamed about what her son had done that she had closed her heart to him and made herself physically sick. She made a choice after doing some forgiveness work to re-open her heart which led to starting a ministry for other mothers of sons in jail for similar crimes. Together they gained the strength to love their sons, leave the spiral of shame, and provide each other support while not condoning the behavior of their children.
The spiritual path is one where we learn to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We learn to “love our enemies” and to “do good to those who persecute you.” You see, the spiritual path asks of us to separate the behavior from the person; to love the person and discern the behavior separately. This does NOT in any way mean to enter into or stay in abusive, non-reciprocal, life-draining relationships. It means, as Nancy Pelosi says, “we pray.” We pray for ourselves to know The Presence of God in the midst of All of Life. It means that we pray that we know right where the other is; God also is. It means that in my prayer work, I pray that everything I want for myself I also want for my enemies. And I pray to know and to be Divine Love in action.
In ministry and in life, I have witnessed many people who have not learned to separate feelings/perceptions from behavior. These people tend to be angry, petty, disappointed, let down by life, and highly opinionated. Their lives are small and their insides are tied up with rigid thoughts on how things ought to be. There isn’t room or ability to connect with another within this mess. The best thing I know to do when I encounter someone in this position? Love and pray.
May Your Holiday Be Bright,
Reverend Bonnie will host a daily online meditation group for the month of February. Stay tuned for details.