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Nothing pisses people off about me so much as my kind heart. No, seriously.
Don’t I understand the presence of evil in the world? Haven’t I ever encountered a total psychopath? These are some of the questions that are flung at me.
I’ve been encountering reactions like this ever since I was in high school and gave my first persuasive speech in English class, when I chose to argue against the death penalty. The people who were appalled by my views on capital punishment (not just my classmates, but several close family members, especially including my mother) became even more appalled when I came out as a pacifist (don’t I realize that I come from a long line of military veterans? am I suggesting that my veteran ancestors were wrong to enlist? –though I will just note in this regard that my Vietnam veteran former Marine father was my biggest supporter during this time and that he seemed to greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness I was giving to these topics). Many of these same people find my vegetarianism highly annoying as well (do I like animals better than people?).
What I find interesting is their use of the presence of violence in the world to argue that I should be MORE willing to be violent and MORE tolerant of violence.
(I’m not against self-defense, by the way. I have a black belt in Seido karate and have also studied two other martial arts. And I’m not anti-guns, per se. I grew up in rural Alaska, where everyone has guns in the house and where those guns are used to provide food for the winter–in other words, to nourish, even though that nourishment comes from an act of violence. Of course, in that same environment, I also heard many stories of people drinking too much and then shooting each other–but it’s not polite of me to bring that up, is it?)
If everyone was like me, wouldn’t we all be dead right now?
Let me just say this.
Yes, I know that there is evil in the world. Yes, I know that there are psychopaths and sociopaths out there.
I’m actually not one of them, though.
So, first of all, stomping all over my attempts to inspire other people to be peaceful and loving–I’m not so sure that helps the situation, at all. Directing negative energy at me, when I’m actually not the problem or even a source of the problem–I don’t see how that is constructive. I’m willing to objectively consider the possibility that it might be constructive, but right now I just am not seeing the logic of it.
In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that inspiring people to be kind to each other is a better, more constructive response. That deescalation leads to less violence than escalation.
When people hurt each other, it’s not because they were feeling kind and loving at the time. It’s not because they are overly tenderhearted.
Violence comes not from a tender heart, but from a heart that has been hardened and encased in armor.
When we respond to people authentically, and look them in the eye, and try to really understand who they are and what motivates them, and do our best to love and nurture them, what we actually are doing is finding ways to shoot arrows through the chinks in the armor around their hearts.
Yeah, we could shoot them in the heads, or stick a pick axe into their skulls, or whatever. But all we can accomplish that way is to kill a person’s physical body.
And typically, when we kill someone, the act of murder causes arrows to shoot into the hearts of the people who loved that person. And that hurts. They don’t like having arrows shot into their hearts, so they find whatever armor they can. They harden. And when they harden, they can find it in themselves to be violent, too. And then they start deploying concepts like justice to try to rationalize their own emotional responses.
Justice, though, is not a concept that can be used at a practical level to solve the problem of violence. It actually is not useful. At all.
(As another aside, speaking of justice, and the justice system–as someone who regularly spends time in jail, working with men and women inmates as a volunteer, I’ve NEVER met anyone evil there or anyone who I was EVER afraid of.)
If you want to solve the problem of violence, you have to shoot arrows of healing, not arrows of pain, into people’s hearts. Don’t worry–healing hurts too, in its own way (so if you’re that determined to cause pain, I’d say, don’t worry about it–there will ALWAYS be plenty of pain in the world).
Consider the possibility that if I choose to be tenderhearted, if I choose to allow myself to be vulnerable, I could be doing so rationally.
Consider the possibility that the courage to be vulnerable is not simple foolhardiness but is instead a tool that could make a difference.
Consider the possibility that being kind to people can actually change them and make them less violent.
I’m not telling you to be kind to people because it’s an idealistic altruistic thing to do. Who gives a fuck about ideals? I care about RESULTS.
I’m telling you that kindness is more PRACTICAL than kneejerk anger because it produces BETTER EMPIRICAL RESULTS.
If you don’t believe me, try to falsify my statement. Document what happens when you are kind to people and what happens when you are unkind. Do your own statistical analysis. I dare you.
Yes, I choose to have a kind heart, even in the face of the presence of evil. In fact, I can’t think of any better way to defy evil than to be kind.
So this is my call to arms:
DARE TO BE KIND.