This year, I have seen more hatred than ever before.
Some of it stems from the racism and groups that see themselves as elites. Some of it stems from the political climate where both sides of the spectrum were at each other’s throats all year long.
When the terrible incident with George Floyd happened, there were a large number of people on my social media feeds calling for a change, and understandably so.
However, what I saw the most was people stating, “If you are racist, unfriend me now.” Instead of unfriending people I don’t agree with, I made a call to remain friends and continue doing anti-racist work and show racists that they don’t need to believe in those beliefs, wherever the racism stems from.
A wonderful woman recounted her story of changing an older man’s mind about the color of her skin. She kept being nice to him and said “hello” every time she saw him. It eventually turned into a conversation where he expressed why he felt Black people were the problem. He had a bad experience at one point a long time ago, and it colored his judgement ever since. Her actions, however, made him see the truth.
This is a prime example of why I think we should be nice to people who see things from a different perspective. No amount of name-calling or shaming will work, as it puts the person on the defensive. If you don’t believe me, look at how well the political discussions worked this year. I don’t think anyone changed their mind when people of the opposition were calling them nasty names.
This can be seen in cults. A participant in a cult will be indoctrinated to believe certain things. They will often be told that others will try to undermine the cult, so they need to have complete faith in the cult and its belief system. When friends and family try to get this participant to leave, the participant digs their heels in. They were told this would happen, and they were ready for it.
It works the same way with racism. Someone, somewhere, told them that Black people are the problem. They believe it and continue to hear stories that support their beliefs. They don’t often hear conflicting stories because they are around people with similar beliefs—they live in an echo chamber. That’s when it’s most important to try to show them love and that the world isn’t what they believe it to be.
When a number of my friends and I asked some vocal liberals to tone it down a little, they responded they won’t be tolerant of intolerance. I think there needs to be a distinction here, though. I can make it known that I’m not okay with racism, for example. If I see someone acting in a racist way, I can say something about it. But that doesn’t mean I have to demean the person I’m speaking to.
Their actions may not be okay in my eyes, but there are few people who are truly evil—most people have some redeeming qualities.
I believe that treating people like humans and continuing to have hard conversations is what will change the world.
Another example is from Steven Hassan who has helped people exit cults. During a conversation on the podcast Conspirituality, with Matthew Remski, Hassan describes another situation where love and kindness changes a person’s mind.
He spoke with a former member of a white supremacist group who was working for a Jewish man. The white supremacist had a hard time reconciling the fact that this man would offer him half of a sandwich when he was hungry, despite being Jewish. This made him question his beliefs, and he soon came to realize that his anti-Semitic beliefs weren’t true. No amount of people yelling at him would have likely changed his mind.
This next year, maybe we can work on being more compassionate and learning why someone believes what they do. Maybe we will see that it comes from something they learned a long time ago that has been reinforced throughout the years because of who they are around. Maybe it’s because no one thought to show them love, but instead, people spent their time telling them how wrong they were.
How will you be showing compassion this year?