“With malice toward none, with charity for all …”
These words were first spoken by President Abraham Lincoln during his second inaugural address in 1865. But they’re as relevant today as they were in the wake of the Civil War.
Malice is another word for hatred, a desire to inflict physical or emotional harm upon our fellow human beings. It’s prompted by way too many situations: how people vote, where they’re born, how they pray or who they love.
Malice crops up in social media when cowards launch spiteful words into cyberspace from the safety of their bedrooms. It even shows up in our families; members argue and spew venom at their supposed loved ones or refuse to get together, citing faults that should have been forgotten long ago.
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Hatred exacts a heavy toll from all parties involved. The objects of hatred feel alienated, then defensive, angry and maligned. They may respond by retreating or becoming depressed. Or they may fight back with hostilities of their own.
Haters suffer, too. Not only are they infested by their miserable, spiteful thoughts, but they’re also at an increased risk for physical ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic stress and strokes.
Lincoln hoped to stem the tide of hatred by looking beyond the country’s differences and zeroing in on common goals. His primary focus was healing the wounds of slavery. But rancor remains in 2018, and revolves around equally contentious issues.
Lincoln wisely recommended charity — leniency in judging others — as an antidote. That extends to forgiveness and accepting others, even when we think they’re wrong.
As we honor Abraham Lincoln on his birthday, let’s practice replacing malice with charity on a daily basis. Remember that we have far more similarities than discrepancies. If we must disagree, let’s do so respectfully.
We’ll all benefit from our actions. And I think our 16th president would be pleased.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
How to get rid of hatred:
Notice its presence. Pay attention to your spiteful thoughts and words. Feel the gripping they produce in your body.
Identify the source. Explore which issues set hatred into motion. They may be obvious. Or they could be lurking beneath your psychic radar, silently tainting your relationships and interfering with your well-being.
Sit quietly with your hateful emotions. Don’t offer them fuel by rationalizing why you think them. Simply notice that they exist and how often they arise.
Relax. Take slow, deep breaths. Allow your hands to hang loosely at your side. Soften the muscles of your chest and abdomen.
Replace unhealthy thought patterns. Perhaps you tell yourself, “I’m tired of not speaking to my parents. I’d like to reconnect.” Or “I may not agree with my neighbor, but we see each other every day. I’ll smile and say hello the next time I see him.”
Repeat the process. When you find yourself immersed in hatred, simply return to step one. But don’t get discouraged. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, view each day as an opportunity to extend charity toward all.