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I Can’t Tolerate Tolerance

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I Can’t Tolerate Tolerance

I was talking to some folks about Orlando this morning, and the sense of helplessness and sadness and even despair that many of us feel in the wake of yet another preventable tragedy. People look at the National Rifle Association’s power to completely override common sense and they say, “Could our country be any more broken?” and then they look at Donald Trump and realize that our country is way more broken than anyone ever imagined.

America, “land of the free,” is now held hostage by paranoia, anger, and division, all fueled by fear and hatred of “the other.”

You call your God Allah? Other! Your skin is darker than mine? Other! Are you speaking Spanish? Other! You are sexually attracted to someone with the same type of genitalia as your own? Other! You are a hunter? Other! You are a vegan? Other! You are a {Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, Democratic Socialist}? Other, other, other!!!

I don’t need to tell you that candidate Trump stokes these sentiments. He’s like some sci-fi monster that feeds on other people’s fear and anger and grows more and more grotesque and powerful with each hateful Tweet, Facebook post, and blog. He can’t abide truth or tolerance — they make him grow smaller and lose his magical powers to control people.

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He’s like the opposite of Jesus, whose power and influence in the world grows stronger each time someone chooses love over fear and compassion over judgement. Each time someone chooses tolerance over division . . . but wait. Tolerance?

Teaching Tolerance

Why yes, of course. Isn’t that what the solution is? “Teaching Tolerance,” they call it. Well, I’m sorry, but I call B.S. on that. Jesus never said, “Tolerate one another.” Jesus said to love one another. And so have many other spiritual sages throughout human history. Loving someone is more than just putting up with them, just tolerating their existence. That may be a necessary beginning for some people, but I think we should aspire to more than tolerating one another.

Be the Change

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” Jesus said.

Maybe that’s the place to start — maybe we have to learn to love ourselves before we can properly love others; embrace ourselves, not just tolerate ourselves. We need to look honestly at our inner thoughts, motivations, and promptings, especially the ones that we don’t like, or that confuse us or make us feel ashamed. We need to talk about them with someone else. Pray about them if we are praying people. Let the darkest stuff out into the light so we can see it and heal it if need be.

We can’t change what happened in Orlando, but we can change ourselves. Be the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi said.

It’s worth a try, right? Because people who shut off or hide parts of themselves can turn into angry people. They can have heart attacks. They can fall into depression. Some of them might buy guns. They might hurt other people emotionally or physically. They might vote for Donald Trump.

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Finding the Beauty in Grief and Loss

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In light of yesterday’s mass shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, I am republishing this 2014 post on finding the beauty in grief and loss. Perhaps it can lighten your load today.

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It’s amazing what happens when you invite people to talk about grief and loss. It’s as if everybody walks around with a lid on their pain until somebody gives them permission to take it off.

I led a spiritual support group discussion last week and suggested the topic, which won’t surprise you, dear reader, since I’ve offered you virtually nothing else since my brother passed away ten weeks ago.

biff among the cards

But I’m not just talking about death. I’m talking about losing a job and not being able to find another one. I know several people who have been in that ego-crushing situation, and it can lead to serious depression and anxiety issues if the loss is not given its due.

I’m talking about having an intimate relationship slowly fizzle out until you find yourself attached to someone you barely recognize. There’s no “crisis,” yet all your dreams of how life could be with this person are lost. You’re left with a gaping hole that you may try to fill with alcohol, drugs, busyness, shopping, porn – anything to numb the loss that you don’t want to confront.

I’m talking about lost friendships that fade out when one of you moves or leaves a job, or a broken friendship that can’t be mended even if you both try because essential pieces have been lost, most often trust.

Grieving over lost health was a common theme in our support group. One minute you’re an employee, a parent, a sibling and you’re cleaning, fixing, planning, and generally living life, and the next you are a patient being cut open or pumped full of poisons that are supposed to cure you.  You lose who you thought you were.

And of course there’s death. One person in our group lost her father to suicide at sixteen. By the time she was twenty-one, she had also lost her brother in a helicopter crash and her sister and mother to cancer. Although we all knew her at least superficially, none of us in the group had ever heard this before. She had a lid on it.

What resonated most with me at that meeting was a woman who said, “I know it’s weird, but I love grief. I live grief.” She said she couldn’t really explain what she meant, but I think I have a clue.

Grief Makes Us One

For one thing, grief is universal. It is something we all share, and it can bring us together. Not always, of course – I’ve heard countless stories of siblings whose relationships imploded on the death of their parents. But in general, we nod, we empathize, we hug each other. We know.

The Bible says that the “God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That’s why it’s important to take time alone to process your grief, to take the lid off and let God in, because there’s cosmic comfort there if you ask for it. And it’s a universal spirit of comfort that we can all share with each other. Depending on the day, God’s comfort can knock you off your feet or set you back on your feet.

Grief Makes Us Real

Similarly, grief elicits authenticity. After September 11th, I had a strange feeling of not wanting to leave that cocoon of grief, that sacred time of national mourning: it was a rare time of authentic community for our nation.

We often feel we don’t know what to say to a bereaved person, but that’s because we’re called upon to be totally real. Everyday words don’t seem adequate. Most of the sympathy cards atop my piano start off with, “I don’t know what to say” and then go on to say something lovely. And real.

Real Words

Real Words

Grief Leads Us Towards Our Truth

Grief is deep – it leads us into our true humanity. It drowns out the TV, the advertisements, the ringing phone, and the beeping computer. If we are courageous enough to take the lid off our pain and share it, we can reach our true self – and go there with others.

We all “live grief,” as my friend said. It’s very much a part of being human, and it teaches us to search for meaning and a larger perspective on our little human lives. It teaches us to open up to God and to love one another.

What have you learned from grief and loss?

Orlando

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No words to offer you today, only silent prayer.

 

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