In the wake of the recent tragedy in Orlando, many of us are finding ourselves experiencing some pretty intense emotions, which are leading to some pretty intense conversations. As we stand in the middle of the aftermath opinions are flying hard and fast. Sadly, some of the opinions being voiced on television and social media are quite hateful and violent. A lot of the hate is coming from the population in this country that purports to follow a religion of peace and love. It is truly astonishing to me to hear people who claim to follow the teachings of Christ, a practitioner of love and compassion, violently calling for and condoning the deaths of gay people across the country.
I cannot begin to comprehend the pain this causes our gay friends. Many of us who grew up in Christian homes may be feeling anger has well, as we are reminded of hurts from our past. But, as the venom and hate speech is spreading all around us, it is imperative that we do not fall into the trap of using hateful speech towards others. We have to watch our conversations at home, online, and with our friends to make sure that we aren’t just as guilty of using violent word ourselves.
I had a conversation on Facebook last night with a guy I barely know about the Orlando shooting. He was of the opinion that the slaughtered victims had gotten what they deserved, and that the real victims in this country are radical Christians, of which he is one. The conversation quickly became very terse. He began throwing insults at me, but I refused to indulge him. I knew that I had to take the high road and not give in to anger. It was tough, very tough.
My point in writing this not to hold myself up as some shining example. I’m just one guy. My point is that it’s hard not to give in to anger, but we can do it. We HAVE to do it. We have to stay strong in the midst of all this hate speech, especially those of us following the Buddha’s path. You might be familiar with the Buddha’s saying that we will not be punished for our anger, but BY our anger. Giving in to anger will only bite us in the ass later. And then there is the wonderful quote from Nelson Mandela that “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill our enemies.”
We can’t give in to anger and resentment. If you find yourself having one of these charged conversations, try to breathe. In and out. Don’t drink the poison. It will only come back to haunt you later. In these conversations I try to breathe and cultivate bodichitta as best I can. It works. If I can do it so can you.