Judy Clinton writes about intelligent loving in the 'Thought for the Week'
I remember sitting ready for Meeting for Worship on the morning following the Dunblane massacre in 1996. I was in the quiet of the Meeting room and could hear Friends arriving, hanging up their coats and greeting one another in the foyer. One Friend, an active member of the peace group, said in a loud voice: ‘I just cannot understand the mentality of someone who does something like that.’ She was talking about the killings. I could. I’d not long come out of a very difficult marriage and had experienced many feelings towards my then husband that were murderous.
It wasn’t hard for me to imagine such feelings tipping into action. Why hadn’t they? A large number of factors contributed: a family of origin that was loving and stable and had taught me high moral standards, care for others and the importance of delaying immediate gratification in favour of long-term benefits; an education that had shown me how to think and learn, to articulate, to communicate and to be literate; and a culture that was at peace and was essentially civilised. All of those things and so many more had given me enough within myself to fall back upon when the pressures of life became so extreme that I was driven almost to the end of my tether and could have acted with fatal consequences.
What about those who have been brought up in chaos, been abused, programmed to hate and to fight and live in countries where violence has been widespread? What about those who have been so culturally brainwashed that killing innocent people in the name of grossly distorted religious or cultural beliefs is seen as honourable and right? What hope have they when pressure, internal or external, drives them to their limits? Elizabeth Kübler Ross once said: ‘There is both a mother Theresa and a Hitler in every one of us.’ It is all too easy to take the high moral ground when we are comfortable, able and loved within a stable community.
I do not condone the recent actions of terrorists and, of course, everything has to be done to try and prevent more of them, and for people to be brought to justice who perpetrate such horrors. It is good and proper that we should refuse to live in fear, supporting the harmed and bereaved, and standing up against terrorism. But what about the deeper causes and the long-term view? If we don’t look at ourselves, at what lies deep within all of us, we will do little more than shuffle the problems of hate and violence from one place to another. If we have never been pushed to the end of our capacities how can we condemn others as being of another species when they crack?
We are all capable of doing terrible things if pushed far enough. A great deal of compassion is needed. How do we move forward with intelligent love? I suggest we need to start with ourselves: to honour our gifts and capabilities, to be willing to put them at the service of others and at the same time to admit when we are floundering, mucking up, and needing help. When we can do that for ourselves we can hopefully relate to others in a similar way. If we could all extend this compassion to one another it could ripple out from us into our families, communities and beyond. Then add conflict resolution teaching, mindfulness training and therapeutic interventions for those having suffered traumatic events in their lives, and support for those who are marginalised in our society who struggle to survive. We could change the world.
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