Tag Archives: Love Your Enemies

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

Yesterday’s News – Ramadi Has Fallen – What Do We Do Today? And Tomorrow?

Blog - May 18 2015 News - Ramadi has Fallen

At first I didn’t even see the headline story. For so many years now, Iraq has been in the news. We have read so many accounts of military skirmishes and resulting casualties, that, too often, we go numb from the details. Compassion fatigue is one more assault on humanity. When I glanced again at the paper, I realized this was a particularly sad day.

Ramadi, Iraq, is just 70 or so miles from Baghdad. It is the capital of the Anbar province, and once had a population of over 700,000 people. Families who could leave to somewhere had long since gone. For those remaining, they went to sleep Saturday night in their usual situation, but woke up Sunday to a very different world. The Iraqi military was gone. Ramadi had fallen to terrorists. Over the course of several hours, hundreds were killed, and thousands fled the city.

Ann Voskamp is an American mom, farm wife, writer, and Christ-follower. She visited Israel and Iraq this year and has written a series of blogs about what she saw and the stories she heard. Into Iraq #1 and #2 (linked below) will give you a view into the world of these peoples displaced by terrorism. Take the few moments you’ll need to hear the voices behind all the faces in Ann’s photographs. These women and children matter to God. The men, as well, although many of them didn’t make it out with their families.

We can’t just read the paper and discard it as nothing but rubbish, without sitting, as best we can, with these displaced peoples. They have lost so much and are grieving, hungry, and homeless. Ann, in her writing, tells of one helping organization – Preemptive Love Coalition. We give through another – Baptist Global Response.

Ann tells about how you don’t see nine-year-old girls because they are taken and sold in slave markets in Iraq. We can’t even imagine. In fact, I think this is why we don’t pray as we could. These realities are so unimaginable we try to think they can’t be true.

Over a year ago, 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their secondary school by a militant terrorist group. Both Christian and Muslim girls. Taken. A few days later, an organization published a list of their names and encouraged people to pray for these young girls by name, committing to pray for one of the girls until she’s back home. I keep that precious girl’s name on my bedside table under my Bible and journal. Every morning, I pray for God to protect this daughter and to be near to her in whatever her situation is that day.

It’s a small thing…or is it?

When Ramadi fell to terrorists on Sunday, a chain reaction must follow. We will not turn away. We will pray. We will give. We will go, if we sense we must…as Ann Voskamp did, and so many others.

As we pray for those without homes tonight, we pray also for those who stole their lives from them. We pray for their enemies…as Jesus did and urged us to do so (Matthew 5:43-45). We are all in need of forgiveness. We are all in need of a Savior.

Let’s keep yesterday’s news before us – as real as are those little ones sleeping in tents or on concrete floors, wrapped in the arms of weary mothers, grieving the loss of their husbands…and as real as those children separated from those who love them, daughters and sons living strange lives imposed on them by others.

We will not turn away…

Into Iraq #1: Love in the Time of I***

Into Iraq #2: What the News isn’t telling You & Why We Can’t Afford to Pretend It’s Not Happening [Sozan’s Impossible Choice — and Our Very Possible One]

Chibok Schoolgirls Kidnapping, April 14-15, 2014

CAN Publishes 178 Names Of Kidnapped GGSS Chibok Girls

Names, Photographs Of Chibok Girls Abducted By B*** H**** Made Public

Nigeria Rescues 234 Women and Girls Kidnapped