Counselor's Corner: Spirituality and politics

Fred Cavaiani

“A person who has let go of his or her ego leaves no trace. Such a person does not trigger anger in others.” These are the words of Chuang Tzu, the Taoist Master. In Judaic tradition the notion of loving your neighbor and your enemy has been a long tradition. “Love thy neighbor is one of the greatest principles in the Torah.” “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Proverbs 25:21.) The Christian principle is similar: ”Love fulfills all the demands of the Law.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Also, “Love your enemy and do good to those who persecute you.” And “God is Love” and “He who lives in love, lives in God and God lives in him or her.” In the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, compassion is the most frequently occurring word. In Islam a fundamental principle of faith is to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In almost every spiritual tradition especially Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions, the principle of loving your neighbor and your enemy is an essential tradition and principle. Today it seems to me that there are “radical elements” in Christianity, Judaism and Islam who want to forget the essential principle in these great religions: the importance of loving one another and doing good to one another. The “radical elements” elements in each of these religions wants to ignore the concept of a loving God and embrace the concept of a condemning, judgmental and punishing God. What amazes me is the lack of leaders in the major religions to challenge the beliefs of their members who want to hang on to these false ideas of a condemning God and justify war, anger, and violence in the name of God. Yet this has been going on for centuries. Maybe we need to challenge our own ideas about God.

This principle of loving one another seems to become easily minimized and quickly forgotten in the personal lives of all of us. It has certainly been forgotten in the political arena. Psychologists will be the first to agree that the principle of loving others is a basic necessity for anyone to grow up in a healthy environment. When rules supercede the principle of empathy and compassion, children grow up to be either very angry and belligerent or very insecure and withdrawn.

One of the biggest mistakes in politics and one of the biggest mistakes in the public media is the ignoring of the principle of love. Politicians never seem to talk about love and compassion toward others and toward enemies. It is seen as weak and timid. I seldom see a television reporter or any news media talk about the importance of loving one another and interviewing a candidate about what love means to them.

There is such a lack of fundamental spirituality in politics and government. There is no such thing as a vindictive or punishing God, yet so many people want to conceive of God as someone who will punish people and can only love people if they are good and holy. This is a fundamental error. Any loving God, Power, Superforce will always be based on love. Misery comes from not allowing love to be experienced and not allowing ourselves to express love to others.

True spirituality and healthy emotional and spiritual growth is based upon having an empathy for others, a decision to understand and listen to others, and an absence of violent judgments and condemnations of others. We do not trigger anger in other people when we remain loving and compassionate toward others.

So how do we have spirituality in politics? It happens by deepening our own spiritual and psychological journey in our personal lives. This results from quiet reflection and active compassion toward others. Show me a reflective, meditative person and I will show you a compassionate person. Show me a caring and empathic person and I will show you a reflective and meditative person. These qualities are interdependent.

Show me a person who riles people in anger and criticism and fear and I will show you a person who has little empathy for others. Show me a person who seeks only to help others and I will show you a person who experiences love and empathy and brings this to every personal encounter throughout the day.

Spirituality is not based on anger and condemnations. It is not based on half truths and lies. It is based on an open and honest sharing of feelings and thoughts with other people. It is based on humility and honesty about oneself. Spirituality and psychological health is not based upon how many people like me and love me but it is based upon how many people I will sincerely love and bring affirmation and kind words.

The more we remain in anger and looking for the bad in things, the more we will live in fear and resentments and impulsive decisions and actions towards others.

So maybe in politics, in the media and in our personal lives, the most important principle is a return to the principle of love.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@ yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.

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