"You become what you hate"

Fort Collins, Colorado
June 26, 2018

“You become what you hate.”  My dear friend and spiritual mentor, child psychologist Janet Culp, once told me that this is common knowledge in the field of psychology.  That thought has never left me since I first heard it, over 10 years ago.

And it is foremost in my thoughts right now, as I return from a gathering of well-intentioned people – a vigil – in Fort Collins, in support of humane immigration policy in the US. This is an important issue not only here in Colorado and the US, but globally too, with a staggering amount of people seeking safety and asylum worldwide.

How a country integrates refugees and immigrants without loosing its own sense of identity is not as obvious as we might wish it to be. As the number of people migrating is likely to continue to rise in the years to come, serious consideration and discussion on immigration and assimilation policy will be essential to each nation’s ability to receive these populations with our humanity in tact.  And we should learn from the challenges witnessed in Germany, which has opened its doors to the largest influx of refugees in Europe over the past few years and is now experiencing a backlash that threatens to topple the government.  

“You become what you hate.”  This alarm, deeply buried in my memory, went off quietly during the rally, in response to some of the language there that was feeding hate – not against anyone (yet), but against behaviour.  But hate, nonetheless.

I appreciate and am deeply grateful for the calls to action -- the need for good people to show up, to “pray” with our feet, with our votes, with our voices and with our pocket books.  I know how hard it can be to bear the pain, anguish and grief we feel when we witness injustice and inhumanity.  It can feel like our hearts are breaking.  And anger is a such a wonderful agitator to fuel action and camouflage pain.  But when anger is fueled by hate, we lose sight of our purpose, and we lose sight of what we stand for – which in this instance is clearly a deep love of and compassion for our fellow human beings. 

One thing I have learned in my life (the hard way, as always) is that our hearts can’t break, and they never run out of love, like we might run out of gas on the highway.  Our hearts are never depleted or diminished.  Instead, it seems that they are constantly replenished, as if there truly is some deeper source, beyond our own, small self that keeps that fire alive.  And it is only when we shut down, when we close ourselves off from it, that we lose access to that deep, indestructible, infinite source of love. 

And so, in times like these, when we feel like our hearts must break – when we feel we cannot possibly bear it – it is precisely in these times of unbearable anguish that we need to expand the frame, open our hearts even further to embrace all of it – all of the pain and grief and anger (and all of the good, the beauty, the joy, the generosity too!) – embrace all of it, and love even more.  More than we believe we can.  And let that love stoke the fire of our action, and keep our focus steady.  It is one of the hardest things we may ever have to do in our lives.  It will demand more courage, more compassion, more honesty and more strength than we think we have.  And the time is now.