Love Them Anyways
We all have that friend, colleague or family member that drives us absolutely insane. I’m not talking just a little bit cornbally- you know, humorously eccentric but lovable for all of their adorable quirks. No, I’m talking about those people who truly make it difficult at times to accept them for just who they are. It is these people who need our love most of all.
I’m going to begin here with a personal example: my mom. Don’t worry- she doesn’t read this column. Oh she can give you all the protestations you like about how busy she is and how little she goes online, but my mom has not had a job in decades now and somehow manages to find her way onto her computer enough to forward to all of her contacts every single bad joke and cat picture the internet has ever been able to devise. Do I find it ironic that she now cannot find the time to read my weekly column of just about one thousand words even though she found plenty of time to criticize my writing all throughout my teenage years? Sure I do, but I love her anyways and that’s exactly the point of this column.
To give some background to this story, I need to tell you that my mom’s political and social viewpoints changed dramatically shortly after I left for college. My mother had always taught me to love all people, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., but at some point along the way, my mom started watching that bastion of fine journalism known as FOX News. The next thing I knew, my mom somehow morphed into a jingoistic, fear-mongering bigot. And from that point forward, the tenor of conversations between my mom and me struck a notable difference of opinion.
Let me give you an example. A few years back, my mom and I were debating the issue of marriage equality. My mom, having “found Jesus Christ” after years as a relative agnostic, suggested that gay marriage was an affront to the teachings of Christianity. When I reminded her that this country was founded on religious freedom and that her perspective on the religious implications of gay marriage were thus a moot point, she responded by saying, “Ok, now just hold on a second there, smart guy. I personally have nothing against the gays, but…” Now, I’m going to cut off her quote right there for a second because whenever someone begins a statement by referring to any group as “The” anything, you know some racist ass shit is about to spew out of their mouth, but what came next shocked even me. What she said in full was, “I personally have nothing against the gays, but you know they’re not getting into heaven.” Yeah, that was even more prejudiced than I could have imagined.
To think that my own mother hated gays so much, was so fearful of the lifestyle they represent, that she believed she had the right to judge them and deem them unworthy of the privilege of heaven was simply incompatible with the woman I had always known and loved. How could this be my mother? How could I be aligned with someone who opted for hate and bigotry over love and compassion, the major tenants of the very religion she chose to espouse? I was vexed to see how our relationship could go forward from there.
If you are hoping that this story is going in the direction of a turning point for my mom, an epiphany of cultural and social enlightenment that would lead her down a path of greater acceptance, let me dash out your optimism here and now. Folks like this rarely change their minds. In fact, I was recently telling my mom about the plight of a young African-American I knew through a former student of mine. This young man, only in 8th grade, had already been arrested twice and was struggling to get an education in the traditional school system. I felt for this young man and wanted to help him find his way.
“What would you want to do that for?” my mom protested. “He clearly won’t appreciate it.”
When I tried to explain to her that all human beings have a piece of the divinity within, that we are all God’s children, my mom dismissed the notion and told me that some people are born bad, possessed of the devil and inferior in their moral attitude. Shocked, I raised my voice and told my mom she was betraying the teachings of Christ.
“Who the hell are you to judge him, Mom? Christ told you to judge not lest ye be judged. He told you to turn the other cheek and to love ALL of your fellow brothers and sisters. Seems to me like you’re a pretty crappy Christian if that’s how you want to view others.”
Yes, I should have done better, and I knew it. Sure, I was frustrated by my mom’s lack of acceptance, but what was I doing but more of the same? My mom’s viewpoint might have been maddeningly shortsighted, a limited perspective rooted in fear and anger, but my mom too is a human being just trying to make her way through a sometimes challenging and troubling world. She too is a part of the divine, struggling in her path to become the best version of herself.
I called her back the next day and apologized. I told her that while I found her viewpoint on the subject to be unfortunate, that I loved her no matter what, for it is through love, not anger, that we make the world a better place. And then I told her I thought I would write a column on that very point. To which she responded that she probably wouldn’t read it….
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com