Can I Soften My Heart? Should I...?
How might our world soften if we could practice taking one another's heartfelt words at face value? ...at least until there is a consistent pattern of reasons to not honor such word? I may experience disbelief, even revulsion, but if I can practice entering in with goodwill and compassion, I often learn more than if I push away and separate myself.
For instance, the following words came in a daily missive from The Week:
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Delaware man, Kevin Seefried, to three years in prison for his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. During the riot, Seefried, 53, stormed the Capitol and threatened a Black police officer with a pole attached to a Confederate battle flag. Before U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden announced the sentence, Seefried tearfully apologized, saying he "never wanted to send a message of hate." McFadden said the attack was chilling. "Bringing a Confederate flag into one of our nation's most sacred halls was outrageous," the judge said. … Prosecutors had called for a nearly six-year sentence.
I had a predictably visceral reaction to the words, “’tearfully apologized,’ saying he ‘never wanted to send a message of hate.’” Disbelief, revulsion, anger. The televised images of the Insurrection are burned into my cells. The sight of the Confederate flag chills my blood. My own unwillingness to listen, to imagine what he is saying could be true, lives and breathes underneath my disbelief. I cannot ... will not...believe him.
And yet, if I were to take the words at face value, recognizing the cost for a white man to be in tears in public today…? I can honor the shame he must feel, even regret or humiliation in being held accountable for his actions in a totally different story than he thought he was in…and upon seeing it unfold around himself, say genuinely he “never wanted to send a message of hate.” ...which I hold alongside the outrage and disbelief I feel, as hatred courses through all of our politics today, fed by fear and grief. Of course it was a message of hate.
So then I bring the telescope back around to myself, wondering how hatred courses through me. Because it must. I live in today’s worlds as much as anyone.
Have I ever been in the throes of such certitude that my actions fell out of alignment with what I thought I was doing, who I was? Where my values got subsumed in my own lack of awareness of other stories that were playing out simultaneously? Of course I have been…they have been. Perhaps not enough to bring me before a federal judge, but…
When I first read the news story, I wanted to hate Kevin Seefried for his cluelessness, his inability to see how his actions were hateful.
See how that works? It's so visceral, immediate...
Today, I choose to take him at his word, to share his regret. We can both feel sadness and regret, together.