Many discussions in life involve the themes of happiness and love. Yet, we don’t always know the difference. One of the best clarifications I’ve read is from an unnamed Catholic priest who worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He said, “When you think about it, if your main goal is to be happy, you’re going to be miserable. But if your main goal is to love, you’re going to be happy.”
As people around the globe remember the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps we can reconsider how we experience happiness when we choose to love, especially the seemingly unlovable. When discussing the theme of love in 1953, MLK said: “We realize that we stand surrounded with mountains of love and we deliberately dwell in the valley of hate.” He could speak these words now, in 2016, as so many surrounded by mountains of love choose to dwell in valleys of hatred, upset and anger. For some, it’s easier to remain in the valley than pull themselves out.
To reside in mountains of love takes persistent, determined, spiritual practice. It requires, as MLK taught, that we consider ourselves first, rarely an easy task. Because the truth is, we won’t like some people, and some people won’t like us. Not the way we walk, talk, dress, act, work, think, or breathe. MLK acknowledged: Sometimes others don’t like us because of jealousy about something we have or because they feel hurt about something we did or said.
Nevertheless, he encouraged us “to discover the element of good” in others. He said that when we choose to see “the image of God” within them, we begin to love an “enemy” because we behold the essence of the divine in them, no matter what they’ve said or done. The more we behold this image, the happier we can feel, because we change ourselves and move to a greater consciousness of love.
MLK called this greater consciousness an overflowing, unconditional love for all people, a creative, redemptive, transformative love which seeks nothing in return. MLK said that when we love this way, we love everyone, not because they’re likable, but because this is how we imagine God loves.
This is the core of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures which MLK preached: We love this way because by doing so, we express – as best we can imagine – God’s unconditional love and infinite compassion.
MLK admitted: It’s a challenge to like some people. Yet, he encourages us to love them because it liberates and strengthens us. He said: “The strong person is the person who” chooses to cut the chains of hatred and chooses love.
Because the truth is: Our hatred hurts us more than anyone else. It destroys all our attempts to be happy and eats away at us from the inside out, hurting our bodies, minds and spirits. As much as hatred can keep us wallowing in the valley forever, love can help us climb mountains we never imagined possible. With love, the journey becomes easier – and maybe, happier, too.
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.