A poster on my desk.

A poster on my desk.


I have been thinking about freedom and integrity lately.  How do we sustain a sense of our own values when others around us seem to be threatening them? How do we live as people of faith who have been taught to love our enemies when those who threaten us hurt us with their actions or inactions?

Jesus advice was to love our enemies—to pray for those who persecute us. To pray for those who seem to wish us ill-will is not easy. To love those who would hurt us seems counter-intuitive. We are inclined to strike back, to wish ill for those who hurt us.

But, when I let other’s behavior determine my behavior, do I lose my freedom to be myself? I do not like myself when I am a hating person. I do not like myself when all I can do is respond in kind to those whose actions hurt me. When we do unto others what they do to us, we are not free. We are controlled by them.

So, praying for those who hurt us keeps me centered in what I care about—spreading kindness and love. To love those who hurt me is to pay attention to them as humans—as people who may be hurting me out of their own hurt—to see them as complex and maybe even confused—to see them as people who are unable to see my hurt and pain.

But, I want to maintain my integrity—my freedom to define who I am and how I will act. And when I pray instead of pout, when I love instead of lash out, I am able to continue to define who I am and work to be who I want to be.


One only has to wake up in the morning to know that there is plenty of hurt in this world. Nations hurt each other—sometimes out of greed, sometimes out of malice, sometimes out of ignorance. And when nations feel that someone has done evil toward them, the almost universal reaction is to respond in kind. There seems to be a political necessity that if you hurt us, we will hurt you.

And this policy is considered a deterrent. The philosophy is that people might think twice before hurting us if they know we will hurt them worse. Don’t tread on us or you will play double for your transgression.

And this policy is often practiced in personal ethics. When someone hurts me, there is an impulse to strike back. I feel a need to defend myself against further hurt or violation so if the other person knows that they will suffer pain if they do it again, it will function as a deterrent. 

But, this only perpetuates the cycle of retribution.

I wonder if there is not some other way to live our personal lives. In the Bible it is suggested that we “not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you are called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (I Peter 3:9)

What would happen if we replied to hurt with blessing? What would happen if we spoke kindly instead of insult? What kind of community could we create if we repaid hurt with kindness?

We might find our lives a more blessed experience. It would take courage but it might help others realize that they do not have to strike out at us because we are not going to hurt them. It might be that we and they would inherit the blessing of peace if one of us had the  courage to respond to evil with blessing. The world may not understand this or be able to practice it, but maybe our personal lives might experience the blessing of grace if we did. And who knows, it might even work with nations if it were ever tried.


A number of people I love are in pain--emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual. I hate it!!  I want to fix it. It seems to be a natural impulse for me to want to do something--anything--to reduce pain of those I love.

But that can be a problem. Most of the time I can't fix it!! Pain seems to be uniquely individual. Each of us experience it in our own way. The only way we can get beyond it is to go through it. We can try to avoid it, but mostly it comes back, sooner or later and has to be dealt with.

Now one of the problems with my wanting to fix the situation that creates pain for others is that, since I mostly can do nothing to fix it, I am tempted to avoid people in pain.  It is frustrating to feel like I should fix the problem and not have the ability to actually do that.  I feel helpless. In order to avoid frustration, I may be tempted at times to just crawl into the safety of my own world and not show up in the lives of those who hurt.

But, I know from my own experience of pain that having people accompany me in my pain can be helpful. The presence of people who know me and who care for me is really important.  It is important when they come along side of me and walk with me in that pain.  I know that others can't fix the problem and move life back before the painful experience occurred, but it helps me carry my pain when others hold it with me.

And the presence that is most helpful is that which comes gently into my space. Those who try to insist that they have to be with me may be helpful at times, but the most helpful people are those who are near by, waiting and ready when I feel the need to reach out.  It is those who remind me from time to time that they are available. It is those who email, who send a card, who phone.  Just a reminder of their potential presence.

So, if you know someone who is hurting--don't avoid them just because you feel helpless to fix their problem. Respect them enough to allow them to have their own pain, but love them enough to be willing to share time with them when they desire it.