If you're a Christian, it's easy to justify loving the terrorist. Matthew 5:44 states "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you."
But what about those of us who don't espouse Christian theology? Can we find it in our hearts to love the terrorist?
And why would we want to?
First, any discussion of what I should or shouldn't personally do has to begin with this premise: I don't want to suffer. I don't want to cause myself suffering. And when I don't love others, when I hold resentment, anger, fear or hate in my heart, I am the one who is suffering. It's not doing anything to the terrorist. It's hurting me.
I'm not gaining anything by cultivating these negative states. I'm not furthering the cause of freedom. I'm not punishing anybody or holding anybody accountable. I'm only harming myself.
Second, if I am experiencing resentment, anger, fear or hate, it follows that I am experiencing those because I have in some way been harmed. But I haven't. I haven't been harmed in any way, so I have no right to point these strong emotions at people who have not harmed me personally.
Third, even if I had supposedly, in some people's opinion, been harmed, does it follow that thsese emotions are the right response? Not really. Because even though YOU might think I've been harmed, I haven't. No one can harm me. Only I can harm myself. I don't agree that anyone else can do anything harmful to me. An event that happens to me is only bad if I think it's bad. If it happens, and I don't feel threatened or angry or unsafe, then it hasn't harmed me. Harm comes when I attach meaning to that event, a story I tell myself about it that says it's bad.
But, you say, shouldn't I feel that a terrorist blowing people up is bad? I'm aware that many people in our society would attach a negative connotation to that act. And I'm not telling that you can't if you want to. I'm just saying, I can't.
People have inherent worth and dignity, despite their beliefs or actions. None of us are perfect. And our worth should not and does not depend on what we do. If it did, then none of us would have any self worth. Because we have all caused pain to others, in a myriad of different ways. Singling out the terrorist as somehow being worse than us is disingenuous. And you may say, yes, but I haven't killed anyone. Well, what is worse, committing one act which causes a person momentary pain, and is immediately over, or causing a person pain every day of your life by consistently hurting them physically or emotionally, over and over by the way you treat them? Unkind words and actions are just as devastating, and people have to live with those daily from you, whether you believe it or not.
Go to a friend or relative and ask them to honestly tell you what was the last thing you said or did to them that was unkind, hurtful or thoughtless. You will be surprised at how frequently you hurt people and don't even know it. Doesn't matter if you meant to or not, you've done it.
I love mercy. Mercy feels right. Retribution feels wrong.
I would show mercy to you for your hurtful words and actions. I would show mercy to the terrorist. Of course, I can only do this in my heart, as I am not in charge of handing out punishments in this country, and I don't want to be. I'm not talking about whether or not they should be held accountable for their crimes. I'm talking about what we do to get through our day, to be happy, to live with ourselves, and be at peace. And peace doesn't come from retribution. It comes from embracing the humanity in all of us.
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Copyright Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living