I used to hate Mormons. No, seriously, as the past State Coordinator of the National Organization for Women, Mormons were my nemesis.
I debated them, picketed their temple and even made fun of their beliefs. I was certain that everything I was for they were against, and everything I was against they were for. I knew that all the men were racist bigots and kept their multiple wives locked up at home barefoot and pregnant. And I even met some Mormon men who did treat their wives like that.
In 2003, a few months after my 50th birthday party, a casual friend was passing hateful propaganda about Muslims on email. Propaganda that claimed that all Muslims take a vow to kill us. It went on and on, I’m sure some of you saw it. I wrote this woman and told her that not all Muslims are hateful killers, that indeed she may have held hands with the Muslim couple that were at my birthday party as we sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth”. I told her that this couple are beautiful, fun, peace loving people just like we are. I told her that radical, hateful extremists can be found in almost every religion be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu etc. and every country from France to Russia to Pakistan to the USA. I reminded her that some Christians in this country bombed abortion clinics – sometimes wounding and killing people. She wrote back and apologized saying she had never known any of “them” (Muslims) and that she had believed all the awful diatribe about “them”. Our conversation ended peacefully.
Yet even after that incident, until about a year ago, I would have claimed that Mormons were my nemesis. That indeed I knew that “they” were against everything I believed in and vice versa.
And then I met a beautiful and faithful Mormon woman. A woman who is spiritual, metaphysical, peaceful, who believes that loving service is the top priority in her life’s mission. A woman who goes to drum circles with me, who shares Reiki healing, who helped me pack my house for a big move, a woman who loves movies, crystals, chocolate and her family, who regularly attends temple and has a deep belief in God. A woman who spent hours sending Reiki healing to my dog — who has become one of my best friends. A woman who shattered every myth I held about Mormons, including that they are all Republicans.
And I had to face my fears – my deep seated beliefs about “them”. I had to step up and recognize that when I put anyone in the “them” slot, the different than me slot, I contribute to the separation that causes hatred and violence. When I fail to meet someone and know them as another human being, regardless of their race, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or any other differences, I contribute to the imbalance. I contribute to dishonoring another human. And I dishonor myself in the process.
In the many years that I worked seven days a week for women’s rights, for gay rights, for equality for all, I remember the people who met me and said, “You don’t look like one of them”. And yet haven’t I said the same?
When I look at anyone different than me in any way and pass judgment based on those assumptions , I give up my chance to know the real person, to relate to another human being at a deeper level…the level where love exists. For at the core of the majority of humans, I believe there is infinite light, I believe there is powerful love and forgiveness. I believe that most of us are good – that we want peace – that we care about each other. I believe when we take the time to go beyond our judgments, our assumptions and yes our expectations, that we will find another human being who wants the same things we do, who desires love, peace and freedom.
I commit to reach out to “them” the next time. I commit to take the time to learn who “they” are.
And I commit to remember, when I point a finger at someone else there are three pointing back at me!
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