Love is not Soft

Jesus said to Love your enemies. I don’t think he meant that our inability to do so should prevent us from acting. Dismantling oppression is an act of love, and in my mind it is one of the highest, deepest and most important expressions. We can’t wait until our love has matured to act. Our very waiting is the stunting of growth. It is a missed opportunity in a moment when we are being asked to step up.

But, while we fight, what if we allowed our love to grow? Because, after all, He did say it. Love your enemies.

The Love He talks about has room for the oppressor and the oppressed.  This is not a love in short supply at risk of depletion. It is an Endless Reservoir and an ability strengthened by its very use.

Let’s be clear: all forms of oppression must be stopped. This includes the radical hatred of white nationalists and the cruel indifference of sweatshop profiteers. The heart knows this truth, but it also knows this- Love isn’t soft.

It’s not about letting anyone off the hook. It’s not normalizing or minimizing. It’s not false equivalency or taking the middle road. It is simply ensuring that our hearts don’t close.

Since the 1950s the Dalai Lama has practiced Tonglen for the Chinese government, who are responsible for the mass genocide of the Tibetan people. In this practice he breathes in their suffering and breathes out goodwill towards them. When asked if his practice has had any benefit, the Dalai Lama said, “I think it has benefited me.”

I can’t allow my heart to grow cold towards anyone. If I were to find words to state my life’s mission, I might quote Kabir or Maharajji, who whisper at every moment, “Never put another person out of your heart.”

I have heard some of the cruelest, most racist and sexist words come out of children’s mouths like you wouldn’t believe. I have witnessed teens bully and physically attack others with weapons. It’s my job to love kids like that. With a child it’s unsettling. We instantly know those words and actions aren’t theirs, but rather an ill-fitted costume awkwardly draped over the body. But one day, if uncorrected, those very words and actions can shape a large part of their worldview.  The child will grow into that costume and form to its awkward shape, making it seem like a perfect fit.

Love is the antidote for that outcome. I can correct a child’s speech out of love. I can stop one person from hitting another while keeping my heart open to both of them. It’s easy with kids…

But I have also met adults that have been locked up for committing violent crimes, who completely blew me away by their level of compassion, empathy, introspection, and self-awareness. There are Bodhisattvas behind bars at this very moment that are more in touch with themselves than the vast majority of us on the outside.

Those who harm others have been harmed themselves. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” Likewise, those that have healed from harm are those that can assist in the world’s healing. And, it’s never too late to heal. For anyone.

So what I’m asking is this: let’s work tirelessly to end all forms of oppression. Let’s take bold and creative steps to do so. That is Love in action, and we need that.

But, while we’re at it, let’s expand our Love and deepen it. Let’s open our hearts enough that we see the Truth of our own Unlimited Well… because, after all, He did say it…

Love your enemies
(Matthew 5:44)

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About Sitaram Dass

kirtan, devotion, activism, and writings at sitaramdass.com View all posts by Sitaram Dass

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