Around the world and throughout history, hate has reared its ugly head. But we don’t need to accept this as an endless, inevitable cycle. Looking more deeply at what we truly are reveals a path out of hatred for victims and perpetrators alike.
It’s ironic, perhaps, that this essential element in healing hate was articulated so simply, so profoundly, by someone who had just been convicted of a hate crime.
“That is not me,” said Kayla Norton earlier this year, after a judge sentenced her to 15 years in prison for shouting racial slurs and threatening violence at a child’s birthday party. “That is not me.”
Ms. Norton was not denying what she had done. She was refusing to associate herself with something that, at least in hindsight, felt so completely foreign to her.
How often do we find ourselves thinking the very same thing – if not in response to some racial slur we let slide, then maybe some lesser expression of contempt for a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, a politician?
“For the good that I would I do not,” wrote Paul the Apostle, expressing the mental struggle we all face at one time or another, “but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19).
Paul’s answer to this paradox begins with an inspired affirmation of his innate, if latent, Christliness – our true nature as the creation of God, divine Spirit. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” he wrote later, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17).
Whenever we feel ourselves disliking or even hating someone, what’s actually happening is that we’re seeing ourselves in the opposite way of how Spirit knows us, and therefore believe ourselves incapable of being the genuinely loving individuals that God, divine Love itself, has created us as. When this happens, sometimes all it takes is a heartfelt “That is not me” or the divine assurance that we are children of God to rouse our thought, quiet our fear, and at least begin the process of healing and reformation.
This also works when confronting the hatred we see expressed in others. In Norton’s case, one of her victims, who spoke at her sentencing, leaned toward Norton and said, “I forgive ... you. I don’t have any hate in my heart.” This isn’t to say we tolerate or ignore hate-fueled actions. But we can affirm everyone’s true, spiritual identity and acknowledge, “That is not you. You are a child of God.”
We can all find opportunities to put these ideas into practice, either in the form of an earnest “That is not me” or an equally sincere “That is not you” – or perhaps even both. The effect, although maybe not immediately obvious, can be far-reaching. “Jesus, what precept is like thine,” begins one of my favorite hymns. “Forgive, as ye would be forgiven; / If heeded, O what power divine / Would then transform our earth to heaven” (Mary A. Livermore, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 163, adapt. © CSBD).
Adapted from an article originally published at Communities Digital News, March 4, 2017.