“I’ve decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When my kids take responsibility for a mistake (even a smidge) I think, “I can work with that.” When a co-worker gets out of his lane but admits he overstepped (even just a little) I think, “I can work with that.”
Human nature shows up every day. It usually greets me first thing in the morning when I’m shaving.
It’s freeing to be this honest about it. That’s why someone taking just a percentage of blame is so significant. They too have looked into the mirror. They’re doing a painful thing to get honest. I can work with that.
So what do you do when they don’t? How do you work with that?
This past MLK day I saw the quotation above and realized he said it just right. Hate is a burden. Consider the man behind that quote: someone standing against a tide of injustice not in the abstract, but rather, experiencing it on an intensely personal level— from a Birmingham jail, for example.
We all have people in our lives who have done us wrong in some way— insults, betrayals, indifference. Sometimes people do not take responsibility. Boy is it refreshing when they do, but sometimes they don’t. What then?
Option one is to hate.
We don’t usually call it hate. We think of it as an annoyance or frustration. But then we wait with expectations. We wait for someone to make things right. And we wait. During this time we nurse that so-called frustration. By “nurse,” I mean we care for it, tend it, and nurture it.
When people wrong us, they do so at a weak moment. Injustice is always a symptom of weakness. It may involve a lot of muscle and power, but I’m talking about motive. People betray and lie and wrong one another when they are insecure or afraid. Weak. We experience them at their worst and then define them by it to justify our feelings. Those feelings begin to grow and bear fruit. Sour fruit. Hate.
Sometimes those feelings germinate underground, out of sight, out of mind. For example, you’ve been wronged by someone who is out of your life, so you just write them off. Or do you? The unfinished business can plant a seed if we let it.
One day, someone brings up their name, there it is: the burden. You feel the burden you have been carrying. Someone who knows nothing of their dark deed tells you of a conversation they had, a success, or just some minor pleasantry. And you realize the seed has been growing. You have been carrying it around in the darkness of your heart.
Option two is to stick with love.
This option is a real pain at first. Literally, it’s a pain because you feel like you are paying the cost someone else owes. You are.
I understand the objections. Isn’t this all grace and no truth? Don’t you have any boundaries? How about some accountability? I understand. These are the rationalizations of hate. Yes, we need boundaries. Of course love needs to be tough and sometimes confrontational. I’m talking about what you do after you’ve done all that. Options: hate or love.
The moment you decide to choose love (really choose) a little weight is lifted. It’s not always a big weight. It might be a pebble at first. One fraction of the burden is lifted. It can be gradual. But the point is, you have been carrying a burden.
Or, it’s like a wound that festers. You can cover it up with gauze, pretending it’s not a big deal. Or, you can tear off the bandage, starting with the following admission: the very burden you’ve carried (hate) is a sign of the same condition that caused the problem. Human nature has a familiar face.
Ah yes, that face in the mirror. I can work with that.
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24