Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: love your enemies

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.

Instagram, I Like It

Are you a fan of Instagram? Do you feel like the energy you use there is well-spent?

I’m reminded of that old mom warning, “Don’t scarf your food so fast that you can’t even taste it!” Yeah, I’m reading through Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks pretty quickly, but does it really apply to books? I don’t think so.

It’s just that I’m loving it so much, it feels so good to get all these nourishing ideas, I have to gobble them up as fast as I can! Like I said before, it feels like an antidote to the poison I’ve been witnessing. I want to take a giant swig and pass that baby around to as many as will take it.

Like this quote, for instance, “It’s regular citizens acting as leaders who matter most in the battle against the culture of contempt.

By declaring our independence from the bitterness washing over our nation, each of us can strike a small blow for greater national harmony and become happier in the process.”

I feel like my neighbors and I have been doing that in a small way every week at our potlucks, but this book is inspiring me to do more. It’s hard though, especially on social media where I encounter most of the vitriol. I’m not a thick-skinned person and the past several years have made me angry at most of the world and far too prone to react to provocation, looking like a fool and creating more unhappiness. But the reason I’m really enjoying this book is that he isn’t simply inspiring me with the “why,” he’s giving me a good dose of “how” to go with it.

Speaking of social media…do you have Instagram? I’ve been on and off there and Facebook a lot over the last couple years, much to the dismay of some of my friends. What can I say? I’m learning as I go here. Sometimes you have to let of something to see if you need it or not.

In the past, I’ve used Instagram to post quotes from the books I’m reading along with quick riffs about what I’m learning. My hope was to generate interest for the blog, but it doesn’t seem to do that. I rarely get crossover clicks. Instagram is built more for images than words, and I’m more of a words person, speaking to words people. This past month, I let it go again and discovered something.

I like making the graphics of quotes from my reading. It helps me solidify the part I read that day and I remember more about the book. Besides that, it makes a nice reminder of where I’ve been. The bonus is every once in a while, I connect with another human. I’ve decided to bring it back.

Each hour I read, I go back and select a quote that stands out to me. I create a graphic, post it to Instagram and then write a sentence or two about it. Sometimes I use that quote in a blog post because there is more that I want to say about it. For a while there, when I was posting regularly there, you could tell how many hours I spent in a book by how many posts there were about it.

I hope you’ll join me. I love Instagram for a number of reasons. First of which is that I get to meet new people there. Facebook, I reserve for friends and family I’ve met in person. You can follow my public posts there, and I’d love it if you did, but Instagram is where I share more of what I’m doing here. Instagram is where the beautiful strangers are.

The second reason, and don’t laugh, is that I’ve found the most amazing mental and relationship health helps. I follow some wonderful therapists that post the best helps for free. People like Self Work Co and The Love Therapist have changed my life, not to mention all the Bookstagrammers that have added to my TBR shelf!

If you’re interested, I’m DesertDreamer72. I’d love to connect with you there and see all the fun things you share with the world.

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