“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”— in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust.”
“A blow from the whip raises a welt, but a blow from the tongue will break bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as by the tounge.”
Ben Sira 28.17
“Love is kind”
1 Corinthians 13
Why are the wise in one accord in recommending that we yoke ourselves as individuals to the discipline of loving kindness? Why do the teachings of non-violence and compassion exist at the heart of every modern world religion?
If we choose not to follow loving kindness we yoke ourselves to its opposite: hateful meanness. Today, as we start year one of this new United States, I would like to take a moment to look at this issue. Accusing whole peoples of evil never ends well. It is hard, the way I see things, not to expect the most probable outcome of our existing political trends to lead to world war. I cannot help but wonder what the odds are of another twelve months of world peace, such as it is. Things are scary now, there are many active theaters of war but it can quickly get so much worse. I wonder where we will be in the first week of January 2019 and ask all my readers to join me in praying for peace everyday this year. However that may play out, it is worthwhile now, before the bombing starts, to talk as clearly as we can about what is true and what are lies concerning the human condition. We all know the names of history’s most recent mass murderers: Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. They each managed to destroy tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of human beings – one at a time. There is an interesting truth in the kill numbers of modern weaponry. It is worth saying in the daylight that if nuclear weapons are used in our next international orgy of violence, history might very well add Trump to that short list. It is something I wish a few more people were considering and taking seriously. That, however, is something not a single person of goodwill can make happen. The best we can hope to do is make circumstances such that it is easier to choose love over hate. People are free to choose loving kindness or not. Some will choose to be the meanest, most hate-filled SOB they can. I believe that what the wise are suggesting by urging us to loving kindness is that this is not a good choice for the person involved, the people their lives will touch, or, ultimately, the world itself.
As a species we now understand, in some fairly impressive detail, just how the inter-generational abuse we are prone to plays out. The human brain is made to take very special note of those things that most threaten its existence. When the brain is traumatized those memories become a load-stone in the psyche for the rest of a person’s life. The emotional, sexual, and physical abuse of the young, for example, do you think the brain ever really forgets any detail of these events? The psychological professions have pretty good models for how the brain is traumatized, how memories of trauma are repressed, and what effects this whole system has on personalities. The psychiatric professions have pretty good models for how the chemical makeup of the memory mechanism malfunctions so that the victims of trauma re-experiencing the memories of the traumatic events as if they were happening again, here and now in real time. The repression happens because the pain is too overwhelming to live with, the repression fails to deal with the pain because the brain never really forgets.
There is a lot to say concerning war trauma which veterans suffer. There is a lot to say about how to turn a human being into a killer by studying the techniques of boot camp. These are important and there is great hope for such people in our newer understanding of trauma. Yet these are effects. War comes out of the heart but what put it there? To get to the causes we need to take a look at childhood trauma.
Children want to be good and please their parents. Self worth and dignity are learned from the respect others show us, particularly those closest to us. Children are trying to earn that respect, first from their family members and later from their society. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong. I would expect most of my readers have had the chance to see a mother who blows up at her child, thrashing them with her adult anger and adult tongue, if not fists, belts, and all the rest. Emotional child abuse is the act of forcing adult emotions into a child’s body where they act as foreign material since children are incapable of assimilating them. Doing so lets a person scar that child for life, just as they were. If instead of love you offer hate, if instead of kindness you offer cruelty, you create the conditions for that child’s future suicide or, if they are the type of person that turns anger outward, their future acts of violence and mayhem. So tricky! You can kill people with your tongue and never go to jail! This is what the world-soul is all about; this long, sad tale of our slavery to hatred and meanness. The most insidious part is that if a child is subject to such treatment long enough, they will come to believe they deserve it. In their heart of hearts they will believe they are evil. Children are not capable of the psychological objectivity required to recognize they are in the hands of a sick parent or guardian. In fortunate cases they avoid adolescent suicide and the adult they become will find the inner resources to confront the abuse and internalized abuser. This is the destroyer we have been discussing in these essays.
Why are the wise in one accord in recommending that we yoke ourselves as individuals to the discipline of loving kindness? The opposite option is to allow the hateful meanness that lives inside of you to rule your life. Then you will enjoy exploding in rage at young children, torturing them for the innocence and happiness they enjoy. There was a whole You Tube channel devoted to films of children suffering things like strapping them down and washing their mouths out with toxic chemicals. Become an explosive bitch and you will get to bask in the knowledge that everyone around you is terrified of you. The problem is your world will become smaller and smaller until the fear you are projecting bites back – and it will. Soon you are living only to control other people through your emotional blackmail, imposing your will whenever it really counts. Choose to feed the hate inside you instead of gentleness and kindness and you create a monstrous appetite that cannot be satisfied. The teachings say it is like trying to slack your thirst by drinking sea water. It gets worse and worse until you can never let a chance go by to target someone’s dignity and send your poison into the soft spot inside where each of us can doubt our self worth.
But why limit yourself to children? You can, if you are careful, find adults with unhealed wounds of their own to push around too. We see such people in our nursing homes after a life long devoted to hate. We see them in marriages when one person is terrified of the other. You can get a real kick out of frightening people, insulting them, making them feel like failures. It gives the abuser a false sense that they are in control of the whole world. We see them attacking low wage waiters and waitresses, clerks and managers at department stores, anyone who can’t hit back.
Here is the thing about this: these assholes and bullies are spiritual cowards. Don’t be fooled just because some of them like to hang out in religions. Don’t be fooled when they wash their violence in the lie that they only do what they do to others “for their own good.” The bully does not have the courage to face the pain within. They refuse to take on the human responsibility to try and control the beast that lurks in the human heart. Each of us must make that choice, day in and day out. The sum total of our choices is what makes up the world-soul.