It was October 2008.
I was reading a book for graduate school called A Holy Longing by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser and encountered these words:
One of the reasons why the world is not responding more to our challenge to justice is that our actions for justice themselves often mimic the very violence, injustice, hardness, and egoism they are trying to challenge. . . . The anger, crass egoism, bitterness, hardness, and aggression of so many peace groups and movements for justice can never serve as the basis for a new world order. It will convert few hearts, even when it is politically effective. . . . Love, not anger, is the basis for nonviolence and nonviolence is the only possible basis for a new world order of justice and peace.
That idea got me thinking for days and days.
How deeply had I believed justice was merely about making wrong things right, no matter how it was done? To be truthful, pretty deeply.
If one was on the path to truth, I assumed it was okay for indignation and self-righteousness to come into play. That seemed excusable to me in defense of truth. After all, "they" were wrong! The situation needed to be made right! It wasn't okay that "that" was happening!
But here was a new idea.
Somehow, it might matter what kind of energy I put out into the world in the quest for justice.
Somehow, the way I treat my neighbor might affect his or her heart and openness to truth, and their heart and openness to truth might also matter.
I realized this made sense.
People matter as much, if not more, as ideas in God's economy. After all, it was a love for the world that compelled Jesus Christ to enter into it when we were hopelessly unable to live up to the lasting perfection of God's ideas.
The more I thought about this, the more it continued to make sense.
Any change for good that had ever happened in my heart had been the result of an encounter with love.
Guilt may have motivated me toward right action, but it never converted my heart.
Anger may have made me cower in fear and comply, but it never made me trust and embrace.
Indignation merely served to make me rise up in defensive indignation, too, unwilling to change.
Violence made me lash out in violence, too, or quietly fade away into a mere shell of a human being.
The only thing that ever pierced the flesh of my heart and made me more fully human was an encounter with sincere, genuine love.
What about you?