What does loving well look like?

Thinking about how to respond after events of violence and injustice.

This is part two of a post I wrote for Off The Page

Hiding away while others mourn and protest in the streets after acts of violence and injustice doesn’t appear like loving well to me. I have determined that as a 30-year-old white guy, if I want to love well, I can no longer remain silent.

But loving well is such a broad concept. Where do I even begin?

I have decided to use 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter of the Bible, as a guide for how I respond in love to those asking for me to break my silence.

Love is patient.

Love compels me to be quick to listen, and slow to speak; and to be quick to observe, and slow to link. Of course, that’s easier said than done. When events of violence and injustice make their way to my newsfeed, it’s not time for me to log off social media. And it definitely is not the time for me to share snarky meme’s showing random statistics. These are the times to be hushed and patient. These are the times that I need to remember to lean into the mess and the uncomfortable spaces of lament and mourning.

Love is Kind.

Kindness requires empathy. Brené Brown says that empathy is “communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you’re not alone.’” After acts of violence and evil in our country, there are always those whose lives have forever been changed. I think for me the simplest way I can show kindness is to make sure to tell them, “You’re not alone! I mourn with you. This is not ok!”

Love does not envy.

Love gives attention to the people who are ignored, mistreated, taken advantage of, abused, and silenced. When I find myself wanting to gloss over the pain of others because it makes me uncomfortable, that is not love. That is envy.

Love is not proud.

I need humility if I am to recognize the various privileges I benefit from. And my privilege is not limited to my race. I cannot let my pride keep me from loving well. I cannot let my pride keep me silent. I need to learn what it looks like to break the silence by being willing to ask awkward and difficult questions.

Love does not dishonor others.

I’ll admit it. Saying “all lives matter” in response to “black lives matter” really bothers me. It makes me want to share political cartoons, links, and videos of talk show hosts being snarky to those who say it on social media. But that too is not loving well. Just because I believe someone is dishonoring another person doesn’t mean I respond by dishonoring them. (It also doesn’t mean I simply ignore it.)

Love is not self-seeking.

Loving well isn’t about making myself look good. I need to be willing to listen to and learn from those who have experienced injustice in our country. I need to learn to admit how I am contributing to our racialized society.

I found many of these resources complied by Leslie Verner to be very helpful in my desire to listen, learn, confess, and act. Taking the time to stop and listen has been an incredible way to grow in my empathy towards others.

Love is not easily angered.

I’ve made the mistake in the past of judging people for getting so angry. I’ve thought, “How is anger or a protest going to solve any problems?” I’ve had to be shown that injustice is something worthy of anger and protest. Love might not be easily angered, but sometimes it means getting angry alongside those who have experienced injustice.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

Every human being has intrinsic value and worth because they are made in the image of God. No matter what a person has done in their past, that doesn’t mean they deserve to be shot and killed. I cannot let a victim’s “record of wrongs” affect my outrage for the tragedy of their death.

Love does not delight in evil.

Vengeance is not the same as justice. Violence is never a reconciling act. Hate is never the answer. If I ever find myself delighting in or wishing for vengeance, violence, or hate it’s time for a heart check.

Love rejoices with the truth.

As I check to make sure I am not delighting in any sort of evil, I also need to remember to rejoice with the truth. Saying “black lives matter” is both a protest and a proclamation of truth. And as we experience greater acceptance of such truths, I can rejoice in the freedom and equality comes with it.

Love always protects.

Because I’m white and I’ll never truly know what it’s like to live as a person of color in this country, I think I often am afraid of speaking up. I don’t want to look like I’ve got it all figured out. I’ve made that mistake waaaay too many times in the past. (I am a recovering mansplainer. The last thing I want to be is a whitesplainer.) At the same time I am often afraid to speak up because up because I’ll let my ignorance show. I’ll say something wrong. People will find out that I fail at loving well all the time. But protection doesn’t mean that I need to be perfect or a savior, it means that I confess I am inconsistent and a sinner.

I do not believe it is the responsibility of the victims of injustice to fix our broken system. That is on us who benefit from and perpetuate the injustices of the system.

Love always trusts.

It’s often hard for me to admit that I am a participant in the injustices of our racialized society. But love enables me to trust that standing up for justice is always the right thing to do. I believe that love does conquer hate, and that evil will not win in the end. I believe that love challenges us to trust that when we come together seeking unity and admitting our shortcomings, we are all better for it.

Love always hopes, always perseveres.

My wife and I were recently talking about how exhausting it can be to constantly be hearing the news of violence, seeing the divisive rhetoric on social media, and the overwhelming injustices of our society. It sometimes seems too big to feel we can really make any sort of a difference. But love hopes for that day when injustice will no longer be held unaccountable. Love hopes for that day where the abuse of power will be a concept of the past. And in the meantime love causes us to persevere. Love is guiding us to the day where the weapons of war will be pounded into gardening tools and we all truly experience justice and peace once and for all.

Unfortunately injustice is still very much a part of the world we live and take part in. Because of this we most certainly experience more acts violence and injustice in the coming days. And again I will be unsure how exactly I to respond. But I do know that for me, that means I cannot remain silent. I must push forward in love. And I’ll be looking to 1 Corinthians 13 as a way to help me do that well.

Published by Andrew

a ragamuffin dad planting some sequoias

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