It wasn’t planned.
I didn’t know that my blog post on anger would narrowly precede one of the angriest moments in recent history.
I didn’t know that within the same 24 hour period an unarmed, black man would be mercilessly and brutally killed on a street in Minneapolis. At the time of this writing, the policeman who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes has been charged with second degree murder. The three other law enforcement officers at the scene have also now been charged in aiding and abetting this despicable crime.
I want to be clear. When I wrote my previous post, I was focused on the increasing threat of domestic violence and child abuse, both of which detonate from distorted, unbridled anger of an abuser. I would be devastated if my words, published in such close proximity to George Floyd’s murder, might be twisted by some to undermine the very real, justified anger pulsating through American and global citizens today.
I beg those in positions of power in our country to take note. Please. We all – I’m talking to myself here, too – need to take stock of the beliefs and attitudes that brought us to this boiling point.
Let’s acknowledge that some have been made to feel worthless, which is why they have had to shout over a chasm of indifference, filled with jagged barbs of animosity, that their lives matter.
Let’s listen and learn -- God help us – to treat each other better in the future. Let’s treat others like the priceless souls they are. Because when we see each other the way God sees us, we treat each other the way God has treated us – with love and grace.
When we see each other as priceless, attitudes like respect and consideration are no longer seen as unrealistic, even ridiculous, goals. They are not viewed as some unattainable ceiling for human behavior, as hazy and remote as the stars on a cloudy night.
Rather, when we see each other as priceless, attitudes like respect and consideration become the ground beneath our feet, as solid but as commonplace as the earth itself: “Well, of course I should treat you with respect because you are my brother or sister in humanity. But what else, how else, what more, how can I listen, how can I help, how can I serve?”
I meant to write part 2 of my “conflict during crisis” series this week. But I have to be honest – the words just wouldn’t come. What came instead were tears and long, uncomfortable silences in my soul and then, finally, a simple prayer:
God, I need to show up differently in this broken and divided world. Help me show up with respect, compassion, and understanding. Help me be an instrument of peace.
Over the last two weeks, I have hungered for the edifying words of those who stood up to hatred and aggression and won. In a personal interview with Robert Coles, the great Martin Luther King Jr. said:
I have come to realize how hard it is for a lot of people to think of living without someone to look down upon, really look down upon. It is not just that they will feel cheated out of someone to hate; it is that they will be compelled to look more closely at themselves, at what they don’t like in themselves…Someday all of us will see that when we start going after a race or religion, a type, a region, a section of the Lord’s humanity – then we’re cutting into His heart, and we’re bleeding badly ourselves.” (From Robert Coles’s Simone Weil: A Modern Pilgrimage)
God, help me live by Dr. King’s words: “Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”
Dr. Pamela Coburn-Litvak has published research articles on exercise and stress in Neuroscience and Neurobiology of Learning and Behavior. Her latest book, Leaving the Shadowland of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, was published in 2020.
After receiving a Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she served as both Assistant Professor of Physiology & Pharmacology and Special Assistant to the Vice President for Research Affairs at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. She then joined the Biology department at Andrews University and developed courses in human physiology as well as the neurobiology of mental illness. She also founded Rock @ Science LLC, a company that specializes in health and science education and web development. She co-developed the brain and body physiology segment of the Stress: Beyond Coping seminar with its creator, Dr. William “Skip” MacCarty, DMin.
Dr. Coburn-Litvak currently lives in California with her husband. Their two daughters are mostly grown and attending school elsewhere.
When she’s not studying or teaching about stress, she enjoys stress-relieving activities like puttering around the garden, taking nature walks with her family, knitting, cooking, and reading.