Meeting Conflict with Understanding and Compassion

There is so much in the news that says we are more polarized, more divisive than we have ever been.  It is important to see that life happens in cycles.  In the not too distant past, we were deeply polarized in the 1960’s through race and the Vietnam war.  You may think we have not learned from this, but as Martin Luther King says, “Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

One of the most important moments of healing in the 60’s was when Robert Kennedy was vying for the democratic nomination for the presidency.  He was scheduled to speak in a mostly African-American part of Indianapolis and while flying to the talk, Kennedy heard that Martin Luther King had been shot.  Then, right before the speech, Kennedy was informed that he had been killed and killed by a white man.

Despite his staff’s fears of riots and concerns for his safety, Kennedy stepped up on the stage knowing that most of the people in the crowd did not know of King’s death.  When he told them, the audience began to scream and cry.

Once the audience quieted down, Kennedy spoke from his heart.  He spoke of losing his brother the same way and the heartache of that (which amazed his aides because he had not talked about this before).  He also touched on the threat of disillusion and divisiveness at King’s death – the same thing we are dealing with now.  He reminded the audience of King’s efforts to “replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

Kennedy then shared something that is also relevant to what we are experiencing today: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

Maybe, just maybe, what we are experiencing in this time that looks like a breakdown, is really a breakthrough.  Maybe just maybe, all the challenges we are experiencing right now are here to move us beyond our belief in ‘them and us’, our belief in separation, our belief that ‘our’ ideas must make ‘yours’ wrong, our belief that the color of our skin or our sexual identity matters and our convoluted certainty that our challenges will be healed through ‘power over’.

So, I invite you to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe we are slowly discovering how to meet everyone and everything with the vast healing power of our hearts.  And if you and I can do this, we open the way for others to do so, expanding exponentially until the effects are seen and felt everywhere.

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