We all live in a world that we don’t always agree with. We live in a world where there is cruelty and unkindness and disagreement. We don’t always agree with the way other people live or the way other people think or the way other people act.
But the good news is that we don’t have to. People always get to be who they are. Our work is not to control others but to decide who we want to be.
We don’t need anyone to change to love them—because if we want to feel love, that is always our responsibility. And it requires us to choose to love, allow, and tolerate others, regardless of their choices. In this episode, I offer some thoughts to help us love people we disagree with, tolerate the intolerant, and allow for wrongness in the world without becoming wrong ourselves.
We all live in a world that we don’t always agree with. We live in a world where there is cruelty and unkindness and disagreement. We live in a world where we don’t always agree with the way other people live or the way other people think or the way other people act.
But when we villainize others for the way they are doing it, then we become the victims and we give all our power to people that we don’t agree with to create the emotional experience of our lives.
So often we think being angry and indignant and upset at others for their brutality and unkindness and intolerance will punish them in some way and make them change in some way, But our anger is only ever felt by us and ultimately it only punishes us. It makes us brutal and unkind and intolerant to others and only changes our experience of the world.
The key is to recognize that anything that puts other humans lower than others—even for characteristics that we view as reprehensible—is still ranking people as better or worse, as worthy or unworthy, and that is still a form of judgement. It’s still valuing one human above another—and even when we do this for “justifiable reasons,” we are creating inequality and exacerbating the very problem we are so upset about.
So how do we change things? How do we make things better in our world without adding to the hate and intolerance?
1. Tolerate the intolerant - Tolerating intolerance means understanding that every single person has free will to think and feel how they want. Even mean things. Even hateful things. You get to think and feel how you want and so do they.
There are and should be consequences to intolerance, but you don’t have to punish yourself when other people choose intolerance.
When Christ was on the earth he instructed his disciples and his followers to love others—to love their neighbor as themselves. This doesn’t just mean the neighbors we agree with.
The requirement is to love the person thinking different thoughts than you and to understand that that person is simply making a choice. Our work is love them regardless of the choice.
2. Take 100% responsibility for your feelings - When we think that someone else can make us angry or frustrated or powerless, we have given all of our power to them, to the villain. And he controls your experience now.
But when you take responsibility for your feelings, you are taking the power from the villain in the story. You control your experience. No one has the power to make you feel anything. You are in charge of how you feel. Its always a choice. And if anger is a choice, then so is love. And so if we want to feel love, we have to chose thoughts to create love.
3. Remember that your brain always thinks you are right – Your brain always thinks you are right. That is automatically going to make someone else wrong. That’s always the set up. And we have to be aware of that going in. We have to allow the idea that we might be wrong, or at least that we might both be right, in order to be curious enough to listen and understand another human being, even if in the end we decide to disagree.
Disagreement doesn’t mean one person is right and one is wrong. Disagreement simply means the views don’t line up.
4. Notice also how dangerous it feels to drop our judgement, our resistance, our dislike - Even though none of these feelings feel good, notice how our brain really doesn’t want to give them up and how it tells you that if you give it up then they will get away with something or they will be allowed to be mean.
As humans we want to control so much. We want to control all the bad things in the world. We want to control all the pain and hate and wrongness. But we can’t even control it in ourselves. We can’t even eliminate all the hate and judgment and wrongness inside ourselves. And so in addition to noticing how hard it is for us to change, notice how in an effort to make things right we end up mirroring the very behavior we don’t approve of.
5. If you can’t get all the way to love, sometimes it can be very helpful to drop into compassion – Byron Katie teaches that if you thought like they did you would feel like they do. The people that you don’t agree with, don’t do what you do because they don’t think like you think. And the only problem is that we think they should. We think they should do it like we would do it. We think they should think like we think. But we’re wrong about that.
They think like they think and their brain has a good reason for doing it. And the more you can understand that every persons actions are coming from their thoughts and feelings, the more compassion you can have for them.
The hardest work we do as humans is love. And that’s just because our brains want us to categorize and rank and see others as dangerous. Love isn’t the default setting. It’s a choice. Recognize that you get to choose how you think about others, even those who you don’t agree with and to think differently than your brain’s default setting isn’t easy. You have to require yourself to think new thoughts. You have to expect yourself to think thoughts and question the ones that create intolerance…even for the intolerant.
Mentioned on the podcast:
Boyd K Packer, The Test
“It may seem puzzling, incredible, almost beyond belief, that for the theme of this first celebration they chose patriotism and loyalty to that same government which had rejected and failed to assist them. What could they have been thinking of? If you can understand why, you will understand the power of the teachings of Christ. One would think that, compelled by force of human nature, the Saints would seek revenge, but something much stronger than human nature prevailed.”
“If you see anyone as bad, how can you understand that we are all created equal? No one has more or less goodness. No one who ever lived is a better or a worse human being than you.”
“When they attack you and you notice that you love them with all your heart, your Work is done.”
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
C.S. Lewis: “If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”