It is much easier to hate those who we do not understand than those we do understand. This (at least in part) is because to understand someone, we have to glimpse their soul. The more of their soul we see, the more of ourselves we see in them.
If their soul is dark with hate, this points out to us our own secret hatreds. If their soul is bright with love (perhaps love born of great sorrow) this reminds us of our own potential to shine with love and therefore calls us to a higher standard.
We cannot transcend what we do not understand. We must know ourselves – the good, the bad, and the ugly – if we are to grasp the urgency of our need to surrender to God’s transformative power.
Take Hitler, for example. A classic example of evil personified. None of us want to compare ourselves to Hitler – and understandably so! He was a bigot, a cruel dictator, a psychopathic murderer, etc. Adolf Hitler senselessly murdered at least six million human beings of every age and gender, mostly Jews, though other races were fair game as well. Few, if any, human beings in the history of this planet, could possibly compare in terms of carnage caused.
However, at the root of his horrible actions were emotions common to all of us: anger, hurt, fear, greed, lack of empathy, selfishness, and bigotry. How many of us, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, have at some point, allowed those very same emotions to rule our decisions? To control our actions? To speak for us? If we’re honest, -to our shame- we all have.
Don’t misunderstand: I am by no means saying we are all destined to follow in Hitler’s footsteps. I am, however, saying that we need to learn from history before we repeat its dangerous mistakes.
Some lessons we can learn from Adolf Hitler would be:
I. Never let your emotions drive the bus. They always take you over the cliff.
II. Never think you are above doing the unthinkable. The potential to do as Hitler did is within each of us.
III. Never think you’re doomed to follow in the footsteps of Hitler, or any other evil person. If you surrender to the Holy Spirit rather than your emotions, you can live like Christ, practicing agape in every situation – BY HIS POWER, NOT YOURS!
IV. Never dismiss horrible people (whether historical figures such as Adolf Hitler or that boss who you are pretty sure is not fully human) as having nothing valuable to teach us. We DO learn from everyone we encounter.- the question is, WHAT do we learn from them? The lessons God would have us learn? Or those which come naturally to us as fallen mankind?
V. Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher, with “bad people”, and their actions, as the object lesson. By keeping everything in its proper place, we allow God to teach us the lesson HE WANTS us to learn (such as the examples above).
“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” – Luke 6:40 (NIV)
Who will you learn to imitate?
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
“What can we gain by sailing to the Moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but dangerous.” – Thomas Merton
“You cannot transcend what you do not know. To go beyond yourself, you must know yourself.” – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
“We pity in others only those evils which we ourselves have experienced.” – Rousseau