A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to “Grow-vember” – an awareness campaign for men to shave at the beginning of the month and then not shave for the remainder. The idea is to raise awareness for men’s health. I jumped into it a few years ago and went from the goatee that I had for several years to the full beard that I’ve been living with until today.
Not to take away from men’s health reminders, but this morning a different kind of “Grow-vember” felt necessary to me. I woke up this morning to a social media feed that was pretty ugly. There was something I saw on CNN this morning that honestly made my blood boil. Hate, divisiveness, blaming, racism, all there as I woke up. My first reaction this morning was to fan the flames – put my anger out there and add more fuel for the fire. But as this impulse was stirring, something else started to rise – an echo back to the words and lives of many faithful and bold people before us who reminded us that the way to fight hate is with love, beauty, and gratitude.
Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.
Nelson Mandela – “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Martin Luther King – “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”
Madeline L’Engle – “Hate hurts the hater more’n the hated.”
Mother Teresa – “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
I am so grateful for this stirring.
So after I got home from the gym, I decided that it was time for the beard to go but that will be the last time I shave for the remainder of the month. As I looked in the mirror at a face that hasn’t looked like this for over 20 years, I didn’t like what I see. I don’t like what I look like without a beard (neither do my kids for that matter as they’ve never known me without a beard). But I don’t like what I see when I look at my country right now either.
The act of shaving my beard was a physical act symbolizing that the direction before us is to grow not more hate but more love. However, if it was just a symbolic thing it wouldn’t be much of a effort. So, I am making a November commitment to practices of love, beauty, and gratitude – not just for me but sharing with others.
I am going to write a card to a different person each day to share how much I love them and how much God loves them. Some will be to people easy for me to love, some to people not so easy. I’ll also continue my regular photo practice of looking for beauty, love, and reasons to be grateful. I’m going to post these things on every one of my social media channels (facebook, twitter, instagram, next-door), I’m going to challenge the congregation I serve to do the same, and share this with other clergy who could do the same with their congregations.
The way to fight hate is not with more hate and more fuel to an already burning fire. But instead to love, love, and love some more. When I shared this with my wife earlier today, she said, “It is like doubling down on love.” So very true. So, join me in doubling down on love starting today.
Love is my resistance to hate.