Answering Contempt with Warm-Heartedness

Answering contempt with “warm-heartedness and good humor” is the best way to start the healing between all of us. Someone has to answer anger with listening. Someone has to answer contempt with love.

I finished this book early this morning and if I could afford to give Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks to everyone that might give it a chance (and force it on anyone that wouldn’t, you know I’m kidding) I totally would.

When I heard Arthur C. Brooks interviewed on Freakanomics last year, I knew I had to have this book. The past several years of political battles that first turned personal and then nasty and borderline violent has been very hard on my poor heart. I’ve felt myself pulling away from people I love and care deeply for because I felt threatened and attacked every time I open my social media feed.

I’ve lost several good friends simply because I was honest about how I felt. One shut the door on me because I was flippant about a political battle that seemed over-hyped to me in the media. Another because I somehow hurt her by trying to cheer her up with the positive side of an issue. I’ve distanced family members because I felt that their views were going to destroy everything I hold dear. It’s gotten ridiculous.

I’ve left the whole thing completely this past year only to find that I feel even more isolated and alone in the world. But what can I do?!

This book was every bit as helpful as I hoped it would be. It wasn’t just a list of platitudes telling us all that we needed to agree to disagree and love each other anyway or simply not speak of the complicated subjects and opt for light conversation about the weather and the children’s activities. Even those subjects are laced with hostility these days; from my right leaning friends AND my left leaning ones griping about how the other side is going to kill us all with their malicious intentions.

The helpful content in this book is a look from both sides of the political spectrum, how we could all use a bit of humility and love in our lives. The HOW is exactly what I have been searching for because I’ve felt so lost.

This quote at the end of the book spoke directly to me:

answering contempt

“What about when you are the one treated with contempt? What should be your reaction? The answer is to see it not as a threat but an opportunity. Why? Because another’s expression of contempt toward you is your opportunity to change at least one heart – your own. Respond with warm-heartedness and good humor.”

I can hear some of my friends and family now. “Michelle, no one has ever treated you with contempt. What are you talking about?”

You’re right. Very seldom has anyone said to me directly that I am a horrible person for my ideas. But when you share posts that condemn others for being evil because they are on the other side of a debate, you shut people down and push them away. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying what would happen if those people found out that I was on the other side of a debate, far too much time.

I’m still learning new ways to interact with people, how to discuss issues without causing people to feel that I don’t care about their side. Actively listening is a weakness of mine, I know this, and lately I’ve been working on it a lot. I’ve been reaching out to people, apologizing for my part in the battle, and hoping to rebuild some bonds.

The interview started that process, and this book has driven it forward. I hope you’ll give it a try. If you’re interested in what he has to say but don’t want to commit to buying it, check out his website. You won’t be disappointed. Maybe we can make America great again for real, by bridging differences of opinion and ideals, and bonding over what we have in common and what makes life far more colorful and interesting.

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