We’ve seen the posts and heard the words. “Thoughts and prayers for Orlando.” The same sentiments were shared after the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere. While the words are meant to comfort, too often they anger the people who need the comfort the most.
Why do they create so much division? I have often wondered; I always considered prayer a gesture of empathy. If somebody says they are praying for me, it’s proof that they care. Others, however, don’t see it that way. Prayer, to them, is just and empty gesture that won’t do anything to solve the problem. It comes across as a hollow gesture when many feel that religion has played a role in creating the problem. I get that, and I don’t want to downplay those feelings; being let down too often can lead to those real, raw emotions of abandonment.
Prayer for me, however, has always been more than just words. I was taught to pray for understanding. When I see a person offering prayers for the people of Orlando, I believe they will be searching for understanding. They want answers of how something so horrible could happen and what more they can do to help. Those are tough questions to answer without some sort of prayer or meditation.
When I was taught to pray, I was told to pray for guidance–to discover what I should do next. It was up to me, however, to search for ideas and meditate on which of the proposed solutions would be best.
Whatever the answer, prayer requires me to follow up with action.
So, when people offer prayers after tragedies like Orlando, I have hope. I have hope that people who don’t understand the pain and anxiety this has created in the LGBTQ community seek to for empathy. I hope that they pray to find out what they can do to help the victims of this horrible crime. I hope they search for what they can do to avoid more tragedies.
Their prayers give me hope that there will be at least one more ally joining our fight for acceptance and equality.
When others get angry because of your offers of prayer, don’t despair, just pray to understand their hearts. Yes, prayer does have a way of softening hearts, but it usually changes the person who prays first. As we pray, we will learn how to better reach out to those who are in pain, and that is what we all need.
The other night I had an unexpected debate on Facebook about pit bulls. A friend–somebody I haven’t seen in years but keep in touch with on Facebook–posted a comment about dogs. She was upset because a friend’s dog was mauled by another dog, and it died. Her response is that all pit bulls should be banned and even exterminated. While I can understand being upset by what happened, I thought her proposed solution was a bit extreme.
Against my better judgment, I posted a link to information about pit bulls that I thought she might find useful. It presented interesting facts about how pit bulls are a misunderstood breed. As a matter of fact, pit bulls aren’t an actual breed, but a grouping of a few breeds and mixes of dogs. Some of those dogs who get classified as pit bulls have mild temperaments, while others have been trained to be fighters and at times are dangerous to other dogs and people. The website link I posted also gave wonderful advice on how to train and raise your dogs to be good and faithful pets.
My friend did not appreciate the link I shared with her. She immediately responded and told me she didn’t appreciate me defending those dogs-English: American pit bull terrier (named Tutt…-especially after all the pain they have caused her. They aren’t worth living, and all pit bulls should be put to death. I replied, stating I just wanted to share some facts about how much misinformation there is about the dogs, and that not all of the information defended some of the mixes grouped under the pit bull name. The website included some warnings. My friend, however didn’t want to hear it. Her response:
“I don’t care about the facts. I know how I feel. Besides, the article is really long, so I don’t want to read it.”
How’s this for a metaphor?
I couldn’t help but compare this social media experience with all of the bickering I see over gay rights in the readers forums of the local newspapers. People are so tied to their opinions and feelings, that we don’t want to search for the real answers to our social problems. The arguments often go back and forth between people who make and attempt to prove their points with actual evidence from credible sources and their opponents who argue based on emotion.
LGBTQ men and women have a few things in common with pit bulls. Like the dogs, we are a big mix of personality types and temperaments. We have a wide array of interest and talents. Yet, to those who don’t understand, we are all the same. All gays, according to some of the more persistent posters, are immoral, militant, and godless heathens who won’t be satisfied until we destroy families, religion, and the traditional and wholesome American way of life.
The truth, however, is that some gay men and women are religious; some are not. We have a wide range of moral codes and limits. Some are vocal activist, but others are more content to change the world by quietly influencing the people in their small corner of the world. Some may be dangerous, but most are harmless people who just want to be free to quietly live happy and fulfilling lives. Regardless of our differences, we all deserve to be treated with the same dignity as everyone else in our communities.
Evidence and emotion
It alarms me that so many people admit to being so lazy that they don’t want to spend the time to research the facts. We have become a generation that relies too much on the easy emotion-based answers instead of searching out the correct answers. Finding those answers depends on our ability to identify reputable sources and evaluating their arguments before we come to our own conclusions. We look for the Wikipedia answers instead of conducting real, reputable research. Emotional-filled stories are great, but if they aren’t back up with some reliable bits of truth, it’s just a bunch of emotional drivel that won’t have any true lasting power.
I am trying to formulate a theory in my mind, but I am not quite sure I can get the words right. I will try to explain it, anyway. Emotions guide so much of what we do and say in life. If we leave our emotions unchecked, we can cause ourselves and others too much trouble and grief. Emotions can be a good guide, but those emotions must be based on solid reasoning skills. We need to be able to step away, research topics to make sure our feelings and ideas are backed up by truth. One thing too many people don’t understand, however, is that truth can always be proven. There is sufficient evidence to back up truth–even in a religious context. Here’s hoping that my friend, and all friends, will learn to search for truth from reputable sources and not make the easier decisions based on emotion because the evidence takes too much effort to read.