(This is the second in a series of letters to Paul Graves’ grandchildren about St. Francis’ Prayer of Peace.)
Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,
Are you ready to take the first, small steps with me on the Peace Prayer Journey I invited you on last month? I hope so. This journey inspired by St. Francis of Assisi will not be a short one. If we take it seriously, it will be a part of our lifelong effort to both understand and then to act out our spiritual hopes for peace. Ready? Let’s go.
We begin with the prayer’s first words: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” I imagine you don’t use the word “sow” very often. It means “to plant.” So how do we plant seeds of love? One at a time? Perhaps. Where do we plant them? Ah, that’s sometimes the hard part.
Seeds of love are always easier to plant in people who are lovable. It’s much harder to even offer loving thoughts to people we think are “not worth” our loving attention. It sometimes takes great courage to love someone who seems unlovable; but it takes just a little fear to hate someone.
We usually think that “hatred” and “love” are opposites of each other. I don’t think they are.
Both feelings come from caring a lot about someone or something. Those feelings can be negative or positive, can’t they? If they are deep feelings, negative feelings can be called “hate,” and positive feelings can be called “love.”
The opposite of love, then, is not hate; it’s not caring. We all say “I don’t care” so many times that we can forget its real meaning. “I don’t care” is often one way we tell our parents or teachers or other people that we want to protect ourselves at that moment and not be bothered thinking or feeling about “whatever.”
So how can we sow love, plant love, when we “don’t care”? I’m sure there are many ways you can imagine. I hope you do. I also hope we’ll talk about those ways when we are together next time. But until then, here might be one way to sow love in a relationship you are struggling with – whoever that person might be.
Here’s where it takes courage to love, kids! Look past what annoys you about that relationship. Look past what makes you afraid. You might be able to do that by finding out just a little more about what makes this “hateful” person act the way she does. (I’ll use “she” just as an example.)
If this is another student, you might learn more about her by asking a person who knows you both why she acts that way. You may find out your “enemy” is afraid, too, and being mean to you is one way she deals with that fear.
You know, I think that is what’s often going on with bullies in school.
Do you get the idea? When we learn more about the person we don’t like besides the things we don’t like about that person, we begin to understand a little more about why she does hurtful things. That understanding can help us care more positively about that person, and not just reject her because of our fear.
Love and hate are all wrapped up in each other sometimes, kids. Unfortunately, it’s easier to hate. But God plants those courageous seeds of love in us so we can plant them in others. Tough, but cool!