Monday, February 28, 2011

Love and Courage

We must replace fear and chauvinism, hate, timidity and apathy, which flow in our national spinal column, with courage, sensitivity, perseverance, and, I even dare say, "love." And by "love" I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage. It is said that courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue with consistency. 

--Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonely

I read the news a lot, and I try to keep up on what's happening in the world. Sometimes this is a pretty depressing thing to do--in fact, as a teenager, that was my reason for refusing to read or watch the news. So much of what goes on in the world seems to be motivated by hate, and it can be hard to hear about.

But I have learned that most often, what looks like hate is actually fear or insecurity. No person is born bad, and people do not become "bad" without having a lot of painful things happen to them. In fact, pretty much no one goes through life without having painful things happen to them; where people make a mistake is in taking out their pain on others. 

In many ways our society is a comparatively enlightened one, but we have a lot of failings as well. One of these is our tendency to discriminate based on all kinds of things--race, gender, wealth, physical appearance, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, age, religion--and I think discrimination is the single most obvious example of a hateful behavior that stems from fear. Discrimination is often lashing out against people who are different because we are afraid of them, or because deep down we are unsure of ourselves. When we discriminate against others, we take out our fears on people who have done nothing to hurt us, people who have fears and pain of their own, and who deserve to live their lives without antagonism from others who are different.

Life is too precious to spend our time dwelling in negativity. Instead of letting fear and insecurity control our actions, we need to learn to respond to people with sensitivity and love--and with the courage and perseverance to continue even when it would be easier to stop.

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