Love is heavy.
It brings with it many frustrations and tears.
I walk with people caring for aging parents and see this to the fullest. They are tired, weary, worn. They love their parents…but it is a heavy burden.
I walk with new parents and see the same thing, after a while. They are tired, weary, worn. They love their children…but they’re a burden.
Or parents of children with special needs. Or adults who work primarily in the service industry. Or adults who work in social services, or nurses, or educators, or hospice workers.
Or people who do justice work.
Because, and this is a truth about humanity that I think is under-appreciated by those who don’t work daily, one-on-one, with a wide swath of humanity: people suck.
They do; no two ways about it.
But sometimes the general nature of people can get the best of us. Especially those of us who fancy ourselves as doing justice work.
How easily justice work can turn into hatred. I’ve seen that too many times. Justice work becomes full of “us and them” dichotomies when the heart is left unattended. The unattended heart easily turns to hate over time. Calcification is the natural state of everything that is left alone.
The heart is no exception.
We like to think that love and hate are opposites. No; they are cousins. Love and apathy are opposites. Hate and apathy are opposites. Love and hate are cousins who quickly dress alike in their zeal and passion when left unattended.
Love and hate are like those twins you dated in high school. You’re always wondering if they’ve pulled the old “switch-a-roo” on you.
It does no good to hate the oppressor…MLK knew this in a powerful way that is instructive for us all.
Working against an oppressor must be a labor of love, not a labor of hate. If it’s not, then pain is just transmitted instead of transformed.
This, of course, is easy for me to say as a white, able-bodied, heterosexual, male.
But even there, too, I must be careful. In my zeal for justice work I can get sucked into reactionary hate against my status and privilege.
I must learn to give up my privilege as best I can. Hating it does very little to change things. Only in giving things up can we change them.
Jesus understood this. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
As I said, MLK knew this. He gave up his justifiable hatred for a humanity that moved…moves…too slowly toward justice and peace.
But that’s indicative of a heart attended to. Attending to the heart is heavy work.
But letting the heart calcify…that’s the work of the dying and dead.
I think the task of justice work these days is to work against systems of oppression while also attending to the heart.
Unfortunately I don’t see it very often. Too much “us and them” talk coming from liberal circles. Too much silence from conservative circles.
The radical circles are the ones speaking against justice while attending to the heart. MLK was a radical, not letting the heart calcify to the point of hate. I think he knew that, to do otherwise would be to replace one burden for another.
And Lord knows we have too many burdens to add anymore to this world.