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“With Malice Toward None, With Charity For All”

Robert Saul, MD writes about how Lincoln knew the only way to move forward, was to accept the common responsibility for the problems of the day and work to improve.

In a society where our motto is “In God We Trust”, love for others should be relatively easy.  Love for others should be the rule, not the exception. Yet we all know that nothing could be further from the truth.  We have a tough time with this one, especially in our divisive society where we shout from our trenches at each other instead of seeking common ground.  The current political cycle with its over-the-top demonization of opponents serves no useful purpose other than to seek control, not consensus.

A functioning democracy requires each of us to be an involved citizen – citizens care for each other; citizens care about each other; citizens recognize that we are all dependent on each other (“I will help you today because I might need your help tomorrow”).

 

A functioning democracy requires each of us to be an involved citizen – citizens care for each other; citizens care about each other; citizens recognize that we are all dependent on each other Click To Tweet

 

Sometimes it’s relatively easy to love “certain people” but tough to love those “other people.”  Family and friends can be easy to love, but folks of lesser means or folks of different races or ethnicities can be difficult to accept.  Folks of different religions will likely be difficult to embrace if we let differences get in the way of our common humanity.  Economic disparities, race, ethnicities and religion can be just a few of differences that can be stumbling blocks to tolerance.  Physical differences (including disabilities), mental disabilities and other preconceived notions of “normal” are often also obstacles.  These obstacles serve to set us apart from others if we let them.

Accepting some and not accepting others falsely elevates us to a higher status and diminishes the others.  It puts us in the role of being the judge and jury in the judgment of others. It assigns us the role of a superior being, a role that none of us should be assuming.

If we’re going to make a difference in our community, we have to be willing to work with everyone.  Hatred toward one group or another would never allow a community to advance and improve itself and the lives of its citizens.  We have to be willing to “love one another” as we work toward a common goal.

 

If we’re going to make a difference in our community, we have to be willing to work with everyone. Hatred toward one group or another would never allow a community to advance and improve itself and the lives of its citizens. Click To Tweet

 

I’m reminded of our country during the Civil War when one considers the issue of love for others.  Our own country was ripped apart at the seams.  Brother against brother, family against family, countryman against countryman. Over 620,000 Americans were killed, more than in any other conflict our nation has ever been in.  Yet as the conflict was winding down, our government and its people were faced with the undaunting task of rebuilding the country and re-forging the ties of love and friendship.  Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural Address in 1865, realized this difficulty and offered the following conciliatory remarks in his final paragraph.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nations wounds; take care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and for his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Despite all the bloodshed and the hatred, Lincoln knew the only way to rebuild and move forward, was to accept the common responsibility for the problems of the day (“with malice toward none”) and work together to improve from this time forward (“with charity for all”).  These words and thoughts still ring true today.

Love for others will lead to an acceptance of our common goals and purpose, our common humanity.  Love for others is the only way to effectively improve our community and ultimately ourselves. Only then can we be effective citizens in a functioning democracy.

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