Most--if not all--of the world's major religions have one recurring theme: Love one another.
It's not usually written out so blunt, of course. Buddhism has the Noble Eightfold path, which includes "right speech" (avoid lying and hurting others) and "right action" (acting in a way to help other). Judaism closely follows the Ten Commandments, including not killing, stealing, or lying. And one of the most important verses in Christianity is spoken by Jesus in John 13:34: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
And here in the U.S., where most aspects of culture have become hyper-partisan, it feels increasingly difficult to look at people we disagree with and show compassion and love to them. We often follow a gut reaction to call them out, verbally (or physically) attack them, or attempt to silence them.
But there's the option far too many people (on all sides) forget: Love them.
That doesn't mean you should ignore terrible actions or let crimes go unpunished. But in all circumstances, it is important to recognize each others' humanity. I've had my fair share of instances where I'd become increasingly frustrated with someone to the point where I start viewing them as an obstacle getting in the way of what I wanted. "If I can get ___ out of my life, I'll be happier." Or "I hate being around ___. I need to figure out what to do about it."
And even in my most recent experience, that "troublesome" person leaving my life did little to improve things. My happiness and my quality of life only took an upturn when I made an effort to work on myself.
A big part of that effort was avoiding ill will toward those people and focusing on how I can accept them as part of my life, even if I disagree with them. To view them as people--not obstacles to overcome. They weren't the obstacle, but my feelings toward them were.
It's tough. Sometimes it feels impossible. But just making the honest effort to speak to each other, listen to each other, understand each other, and love each other--even those who don't deliver such compassion in return--makes our time on this planet exponentially easier. And it makes it far easier to live happy.
Written January 8, 2021