When we are hurt our natural response is to want revenge, to hurt the other person. Does that really get us anywhere?
“You have heard it say an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. What I say to you is: offer no resistance to injury.” (See Matthew 5: 38-42) Absurd hugh?? Not really. People like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations like Soul Force know the truth of such non-resistance. It takes a lot of strength not to resist injury. Does this mean we allow ourselves to be abused by others and walked all over? No! We fight the injustice and we seek to right the wrong. We place before others the reality of their injustice and hurt. But we do it non-violently. When Martin Luther King Jr. marched, he did so non-violently and he called his followers to “resist no injury.” It took great courage because many WERE injured and he ultimately was killed. But such action displayed for the people in bold relief how wrong prejudice is and, in the end, the wheels of righting many wrongs were set in motion.
Sometimes we are hurt by another very deeply. Our instinctual reaction is to hurt the other person back in some way. It takes great courage, character and strength not to hurt the other, but to simply place before them, in a non-violent, non emotionally reactive way, the injustice that has been done. Perhaps this will change the person in some way and they may realize what they have done. And perhaps it won’t change them at all. But, even then, if we respond in a non-violent way, we will at least walk away with our integrity and self worth in tact.
As I write this it is the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. His time and ours are remarkably similar. One thing he said which strikes home to me is this: “I dream dreams that never were and say, . . . ‘Why not?’”
Dreamers can be frustrated when others say “why?” But dreamers keep dreaming and working to make the dream a reality. Who would have thought back in Robert’s day, when the struggle for civil rights was just emerging, that 40 years later – almost to the day of Robert’s assassination – an African American would take the Democratic nomination for President of the United States? I’m sure the people who spoke eloquently, who wrote, who inspired multitudes in those days; the people who fought and died, who were beaten and arrested and held down – I’m sure they never imagined that this day would come. But a dream was dreamed and one day somebody said: “Why not?” And things changed.
I have a dream when gay people can be looked upon as equal in God’s sight and when our love can be celebrated as sacred as anyone else’s. I have a dream of the world coming together in peace and when people no longer see themselves as citizens of this or that country, but citizens of the earth. I have a dream when people no longer say “God bless America,” but “God bless the World!” It strikes me that there are many players in making a dream reality. We need the people out front. We need the speakers. We need the writers. And we need those people who work to change perceptions just one person at a time. And it frightens me to admit that we need great courage, the courage to be yelled at, beaten, killed and arrested. I am not sure I have such courage.
No matter who we are, we all have dreams. What is your dream? What is the vision that you have for yourself, for others and the world? Do you think it’s crazy? Do others? Instead of just dreaming, perhaps we should say “Why not?” And then take a step to making the vision a reality!