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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Activism and Individual Freedom

More and more, I am convinced that there are two examples of concise descriptions of the spiritual path. Jesus' Great Commandment - to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves - is one. The other is Neem Karoli Baba's "love everybody and tell the truth." There certainly are more elaborate summaries than these two, but I do not believe they are any more accurate for their
verbosity.

As we go about loving others, we are bound to ask ourselves how we should do that. Beyond wishing them well, most people find that loving others involves some degree of working for an improved situation for them. The problem, or the blessing depending on how you look at it, is that it can seem that there are as many issues as there are people to work on them. What's more, nearly everybody working on a particular cause feels their cause is of critical importance. That only makes sense - who would work on what they felt was an unimportant cause? However, just because someone we know is energized by a cause doesn't me we feel the same way. I believe that is even more likely when the supporters of a particular cause seem to be angry most of the time, a condition that seems chronic lately.

The truth is that each of us has a limited amount of energy. We simply cannot address every worthy cause. When proponents of even the worthiest cause are always scowling and bitterly critical of those who either disagree or don't share their enthusiasm, they do more harm to their cause than even the most adept critic could. There is nothing healthy about a group of angry people trying to bully a cause forward. As we look for ways to become involved, we would do well to find healthy groups with whom we might share our energy. What we can learn from this if we are already involved is that anger is always counter productive, and if our group moves toward anger we need to help apply corrective influence.

There seems to be a marked lack of patience among activist groups lately with those trying to serve as allies. Are potential allies sometimes ill informed? Absolutely. Are they in need of education? Absolutely. Does this sometimes lead to frustration? Of course. More and more, however, I see pictures of people working for change looking with an anger that borders on rage at potential allies who aren't responding as the activists wish they would. The result is that, more often than not, meetings fall apart and potential allies are lost. No healthy person will spend a lot of time slogging through abuse by angry people - no matter how justified their anger may be - who project that anger on those who want to help. We should remember that the instruction to love everybody includes those who are working with us in common cause!


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