Is it possible to fight injustice with an open, loving heart? This is one of the most difficult questions confronting anyone who seeks to help others.
MY FIRST FORAY into activism came in the late 1980s, when I worked with other Outer Banks residents to oppose drilling for oil and natural gas in the ocean 40 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Through that effort I learned the truth of what spiritual leaders have taught through millennia: Do not vilify the enemy. Hate the sin but not the sinner.
Without question this is easier said than done. In the fight against Mobil, Chevron, and their affiliates, our little group of citizen activists managed to take a big step in the right direction simply by treating the oilmen and women courteously. In the words of our group’s first president, we merely sought to tell the truth over and over. If we can just focus on the facts, she advised, we’ll win. She was right.
The scriptures of the world are filled with admonishments to speak the truth but also to love your enemies. Love is patient and kind, not boastful or arrogant, to quote those famous words from I Corinthians. The Dalai Lama teaches that if I feel compassion for my enemies, I myself will reap the benefits through increased inner happiness. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna urges us to fight against injustice, but without ego.
Right now, at this moment, hundreds of millions of people around the world are fighting for social and environmental justice. How many of the activists in these groups are fighting with open, loving hearts? My hunch is that a large number of them do so on a regular basis, but that nearly all of them occasionally slip into hatred and despair–or betray this ideal by spreading lies and misinformation. There are a few saints out there, people who act consistently from their hearts, but they're hard to find.