Love Instead of Hate

June 10, 2020 | by sheri mitchell

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Mother Teresa

I agree with Mother Teresa’s words 100%. I do, however, want to add one caveat to what she has said. If you want to change the world, go home and TEACH your family to love by loving others yourself.

If we want our children to learn to love, respect and honor all people, we have to do that ourselves.

Children live what they see us live. We can say what we want, post what we want, and advocate for what we want, but if we FAIL to live what we say, post and advocate for, our children will learn that what a person says in public isn’t how they have to live in private. If we say we should love and respect all people, then we better live that way in front of our kids. If we say that all people have value and worth, then we better live that way every single day of our lives. We cannot publicly post about love and respect, and then cuss out the driver who cuts us off in traffic, or bad-mouth our neighbor when trash blows into our yard.

I am a woman of deep faith in God. When the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, I take that seriously. And as a mother, I sought to teach my children how to do that day-in and day-out. When my kids were young, we had a conversation about who was their neighbor. Here is what I told them, “It is easy to love someone you don’t live with for an hour or two each week. It is hard to love the people you live with every single day. No one will make you madder than your sister or your brother, but if you can learn to love them, you can learn to love anyone.”

That might sound counterintuitive on the surface, but my reasoning for saying that was this...hatred needs only a tiny opening in order to consume a heart. If I could teach my children that loving their neighbor STARTED with loving the people who most annoyed them, who most irritated them, who most frustrated them (their siblings), then teaching them to love everyone else might be a little easier. If I started with everyone else, but let them treat their siblings with contempt and anger, I would be giving hate the only opening it needed.

I wanted my kids to understand that every person born on the planet is imprinted with the Imago Dei-the image of God. That means that every person deserves to be treated with respect, honor, dignity and love… even brothers and sisters ;). In order to talk with my children rightly about the differences we saw in the world around us, it had to come from a heart that saw those differences as beautiful and good, and that is impossible without love. Hatred needs only a small opening to grow, and I didn’t want my kids to think they had an excuse to ever hate anyone, simply because it was okay to hate their siblings or treat them with disrespect. As far as I was concerned, if we were going to try and love everyone, then everyone included, well...everyone. 

Hatred breeds contempt. Love breeds understanding and acceptance.

When we start from a place of love in our homes and lives, we can then move into celebration of all that makes each of us in our world diverse and unique. A foundation of love allows us to look at our differences with interest and delight. A foundation of love allows us to embrace our differences rather than to fear them. A foundation of love makes room at the table for everyone and everyone gets equal attention and honor. A foundation of love allows us to listen to the experiences and stories of those who are different than us with hearts that want to do better and change. Love and only love will do that.

As we look at our world around us and ask, “How can we do better?” the answer, I think, starts with loving and teaching our children to love. With love we can see someone who looks different or dresses different or eats different food, and start a conversation with our kids that not only allows for those differences, but seeks to understand them better. Through a heart of love, we can explore, with our children, other cultures and expand our understanding of food, music, traditions and dress. With love as the foundation, we can seek to befriend people who are different from us and have authentic relationships that model the very best in humanity.

Do you want the world to be a better place than it is today? I know I sure do. What if love IS the answer? Would it be worth trying? I have lived long enough to know that hate never created anything good, but love has. Let’s change the world we are living in right now and choose to live love and teach love to our kids. Let’s fight for love to have it’s way in our town and our world, and celebrate the differences that make us beautiful and unique. Let’s give love a chance.

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