I recently found this post on the Facebook wall of one of my friends from high school,
Here’s one of my favorite Merton quotes…“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” ~Thomas Merton.
It seems as though we are failing to do much of that lately as a society. Too many people are judging, getting their feelings hurt, and becoming angry. It is easier said than done to follow Thomas Merton’s dictum to love unconditionally. It is very much the fashion these days to require people to think alike or write them off as unworthy of good will. If someone dislikes Donald Trump he/she all too often extends that disgust to anyone who defends Trump or his actions. If a person thinks that illegal immigrants should all be sent back to wherever they originated that individual may become belligerent with anyone who suggests that we treat such people with a bit more humanity. There’s enough ill will going around to keep us bickering from now until the end of time. Many among us are resolved to disdain differences of any kind.
When I was growing up there was a boy my age who lived two doors down from my house. His mother and mine were very good friends, but he and I never really got to know one another. I was too busy playing with my girlfriends, and he was out with the boys. Even as we advanced through high school we never clicked in spite of our mothers’ friendship. Nonetheless I always viewed him as a very nice young man so it seemed only natural for me to request that he become a Facebook friend when I found that he had an account. He appears to be a sweet and incredibly happy grandfather with a brood of grandchildren who adore him. He’s also got a bushel load of opinions about almost every subject imaginable.
To my surprise I appear to be a source of great anger for him. He apparently dislikes the way that I think. While I don’t have an issue with that, I find it interesting that his feelings become so explosive whenever I mention something that is contrary to his way of considering. I would never have imagined him to harbor such strong feelings, but I hear echoes of societal chants that have become so commonplace. I suspect that he was riled up long before I came along, but I have become a trigger for him even though that is never my intention. He’s accused be of be ignorant and a traitor. I never know when I am going to push one of his hot buttons and set him off.
I try to simply ignore his rants because we share a common childhood and I truly loved his mother. I actually feel badly that he is so worried about certain things that he cannot even control his distasteful remarks. It tells me that he genuinely believes some of the propaganda to which we are all subjected on a daily basis. It is all designed to split us apart so that someone else might retain power. It flies in the face of ideas like loving someone just because he or she should be automatically worthy of our understanding and acceptance as a human being.
I understand that he views me as someone who is naive and who lacks comprehension of the real world and how it works. Of course I am realistic enough to know there are some people and situations that are so broken that they are dangerously evil. We have institutions to judge whether or not they should be allowed to exist among us. For the sake of safety we do indeed have to sometimes make hard choices and punishments. Still, there are remarkable souls who are so generous of spirit that they are able to forgive and to love in spite of transgressions. I suppose that such is a kind of perfection to which we might all aspire.
We are all human and as such our love is sometimes imperfect, at least when it comes to giving it to someone whose beliefs seem so contrary to our own. Perhaps the best we can do is to simply accept them and attempt to understand that it is impossible for all of us to agree on so many fundamental questions. Instead of becoming irritable or judgmental I think that what Thomas Merton is suggesting is that we set aside our differences and enjoy one another just as we are. After all, who among us is so perfect as to have all of the answers? We have all been wrong at one time or another. We have all failed at something. We have all said or done things that we later regretted.
I think that our neighborhoods, our cities, our nations and our world would greatly benefit once in awhile we were reminded that what we are asked to do is love.