Any degree of happiness and meaning in this life begins and ends with love. This thing called love has been the muse for philosophers, poets, musicians, actors, priests, sculptors, artists and common folk like you and me. Love, as I've said before, gets all the press. We all want it, search for it and, sometimes, long for it. Why then, is the second greatest commandment ever given to humanity... to "love your neighbor as yourself" so often discarded or forgotten?
This may beg the question, "What is the first and greatest commandment?" It is, of course, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind..." We all know this. We've had many teachers in our lives who, in one way or another, have modeled, taught and reminded us of this. What we all commonly do is forget the command and often act as if we are the only ones who know the truth and have all the facts and in the course of our discussions we publicly humiliate and degrade others.
In almost every social media post I read, there is contempt and condemnation of the beliefs of others. People and organizations post their opinions without any noticeable concern for any opinion that others may hold on the matter. There is no harm in sharing one's opinion as in an original post. It's the following responses and comments that are sometimes frightening in their tone and attack. Even worse, it seems when I'm in live social settings, conversations are often laced with gossip, rumor, speculation and abject judgment of the beliefs/opinions held by others. In the latter example, these folks are supposedly "friends" with those whom they lambast. What in the world have we come to here? Why is it so difficult to remember to treat others the way that we would like to be treated?
I had a conversation about this with a friend of mine recently and we were both dumbfounded by this epidemic of social lynching. We concluded that this is not rocket science... loving others and treating them the way we want to be treated isn't difficult. But why do people so commonly treat others as if their beliefs are so incredibly wrong and as if they will lead to the de-evolution of the world!? The answer, to me, lies in the personality and psychology of human beings. I've noticed that those who publish aggressive posts on social media and engage in the assassination of another's character while at live social events are the ones who are, in reality, insecure about their own position and perception in public, online and amongst friends. They attempt to appear to be in control, knowledgeable and well informed. They are, however, overwhemlingly unable to see any other point of view and once any conversation they are involved in ends, others have no desire to ever again engage them in conversation. This convinces me that they are, at their core, vastly insecure about themselves although they try desperately to appear exactly the opposite.
We've all read posts and been involved in conversations with which we disagree about certain facts or opinions. There is nothing wrong with a friendly debate and challenge someone in order to engage in a polite conversation - whether online or in person. Imagine, though, if someone on a social media site posts an opinion that happens to be in favor of a topic of which you are not at all in favor. Say, for example, someone posts a supportive comment about the rights of homosexual couples to marry. You and I may have certain beliefs about that topic and perhaps we may not agree. Does this give us the right to judge and condemn the author of the post - and all those who seek same-sex marriage? Does it excuse us from publicly mocking them? Are we correct to condemn them? If we are true believers in the second-greatest commandment ever given, we would be wrong to answer in the affirmative. Sometimes, in order to fully love, we must be completely silent.
Being silent is, I'm convinced, a virtue. As I write this I'm fully aware that I often write about topics that I struggle with and am guilty of the charges I'm trying to identify as matters that need to change within the world - and within me. I'm not aware of many social media posts or personal counter statements that have changed the mind of an author of an original post or persuaded the person at the cocktail party that her/his opinion is wrong. There is clearly a lack of "love your neighbor as yourself" when we respond with judgments to the beliefs, opinions and points of view held by others. There is, after all, only one Judge and it is not us. I think, in general, the best response we can offer - the one that will fulfill the greatest commandment given to humanity - is to simply be... silent.