I heard a song today, a freedom song, one sung in places like Selma and Birmingham in the 1960s. The singer, from Sweet Honey in the Rock, said, “I’d like to teach you a song. It will be the easiest song you’ll ever learn, and the hardest thing you’ll ever do” The song repeats the haunting verse, “I love everybody…in my heart.”
All forms of life, including us humble humans, grow through love. Easy enough to say, but it could be the hardest lesson we might ever learn. When conflicts–major and minor–arise, for most of us, for example, our first reaction is to say, “Well, that’s the end of that relationship!” And so our growth stops there, too. We think that that conflicts drive out love.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When we move into conflict with someone, we can understand that we are passing through a period of growth, that through this conflict we can learn about ourselves and the relationship in question. We can see a person who is full of resentment in front of us as a person who is bothered by something, maybe suffering, and then we don’t have to respond in kind–we can help them.
When hatred or resentment wants to move in and take control of our hearts and minds, we can reject it; and this will strengthen our capacity to love. This will naturally help the other person grow, too, and our conflict begins looking like a study in solutions. In fact, we can look at that person as though we’ve already found a solution, as though we’ve already worked it out. Because we know we will, eventually. It doesn’t mean we haven’t made mistakes or have all of the answers, but it means that we are not willing to reject the person with whom we are in conflict. Plain, simple, and difficult!
This is not limited to personal relationships. We need to grow as a society, too. Mass movements often have to overcome a lot of conflicts, meaning to grow along these lines. Just think what a difference that dynamic could make!
Try humming this song to yourself today: “I love everybody. I love everybody. I love everybody in my heart.”
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org