This post is me attempting to relay a case and point in the most skillful way possible. And as I am actively investigating the importance of understanding the differences between INTENTION and IMPACT, I put value in not sharing too much in the way of specific details here, so as to do my best to protect the identity of the particular person I’ll be highlighting because even though my intention is good, I’m aware I may still create a negative impact on this individual or those who know of this local band/singer.
Yesterday afternoon, I attended a locally held outdoor event with live music. As the first band started to play their first song, a woman came on the scene from stage left. From her looks, energy, and swagger, it appeared highly likely that she was a homeless resident of Missoula. She was also yelling violently to herself as she approached. She then proceeded to yell obscenities at the band up close.
Now, to me it was clear to anyone paying an even modicum amount of attention, that this woman was mentally un-well, sadly unbalanced, and suffering greatly. However, I realized in short order that I might very well be the only one on site that saw the unfolding situation this way.
During the song, as the woman was front and center yelling at the band, the lead singer called out sternly over the mic: “Can someone get this f***ing lady out of here?!” As I considered a possible action I myself could take to help diffuse the situation, she wound up moving along on her own accord and that was that.
When the song ended, the front man/lead singer gave us an account of what transpired between them and the woman. He told us what she was saying and how she was yelling specifically at him. His takeaway was that she clearly didn’t like him. He also said something to the effect of how everyone was welcome at the event but that we were all gathering in peace and love and that woman was not acting in accordance with the vibe being created and had to go. Before striking up their next song, he said: “We’re just gonna keep singing and spreading the love.”
I thought to myself: Hmm. Interesting. So, not only did he take the random woman’s yelling as a personal affront to his character but he also saw fit to curse at her, criticize her publicly, and then declare that he’s invested in spreading the love?
I’ve witnessed this sort of thing many times before. I’ve been to public events where the main demographic of people were liberally minded and seemingly very interested in being open, accepting, and kind to all walks of people. But then something happens – or rather, someONE happens – and the crowd turns. I’ve seen too many seemingly love-centered people turn on a dime in the direction of hate when confronted by someone outside of their sphere of comfort, preference, and/or understanding.
And it’s not that the lead singer or the lovers-turned-haters are bad people, they’re simply misguided and unskilled in the art of connection and compassion – just like ALL of us are, to some degree. (And, just to be clear, I’m also not suggesting that the yelling woman or confrontational person at a public event should be left to continue on their angry tirade.) What I am saying here is: it’s not a thing to aspire to be loving and kind while simultaneously cursing at someone. If we are truly called to being open and caring and acting as a force for good in the world, our love and kindness must be applied to the whole of humanity and not just the people we find easy to get along with and who share our same thoughts and views.
It’s not a thing to advocate for peace and love (or for underprivileged sects of people, matters of injustice, or other forms of change work) but hate on those who are not in alignment with your path (whether it’s conservatives or republicans or particular religious congregations or homeless residents with untreated mental illness) and then expect or hope that things will magically get better in the world. We are all in this thing together. We are all sharing this lovely, amazing planet to the best of our ability. We are each doing the very best we know how with the means we have available. We are – each and every one of us – deserving of love and care and kindness.
Today (and one day at a time moving into the future): Practice kindness – not just with those you find easy to hang out with or those you find delightful and are compatible with but with those who challenge you. It’s hella easy to be kind with the people we like. Personal growth and collective change, however, will only take place when we start actively working with the areas and people in our life that challenge us and make us feel uncomfortable. Kindness means very little – and we will make very little planetary progress – if it’s only directed at one group of people.