I have often read or heard repeated the scripture from Matthew 22:39 to “Love thy neighbor as they self,” with a listening more along the lines as a should instead of the listening as possibility. In other words, I got that it was an ideal but not necessarily something I saw in myself as realistically attainable.
Growing up in a polygamous family, I had a natural chip on my shoulder. When the societal agreement is that you are from a culture that can only produce victims or perpetrators the need to feel defensive is a very normal result. You are either raised with a feeling of shame and fear, or injustice and anger. I tended to have the latter, my wives the former. I certainly did not see how to love my enemies.
As I have grown as a human being and in my spiritual path I have come to appreciate the wisdom and truth of Christ in His teachings, and to see the ways in which I could discover such love. When we became public last year we really got greater access to our own defensiveness. The more we dropped that and opened up in love the more we saw the ways we kept the love people had for us from us.
Still it was hard to deal with the constant haters, the negative and mean spirited people that disparage us and look to hide behind a false alias on a keyboard, or a nameless person on a radio show and spew their emotional vomit onto our lives. In this process I have gained so much more compassion and understanding of what is behind such hate and how we threaten their way of being.
An example that illustrates that is a job site I was recently working on. The job had another man on the job whose last name was Barlow, a known polygamous name in Utah. One particular day he showed up on site to make a delivery and was surrounded by a bunch of workers on the job.
A burly worker with gray looking eyes and a green hardhat worn rather crooked on his head called out, “Hey Barlow! How many wives do you got?”
This instantly caught my attention as I looked up, noticing the rest of the work crew doing the same. Barlow, as his last name is known is a witty and affable person. I do not know him well but find his sense of humor along with his openness about his faith engaging.
Without missing a beat, he stopped and said, “Why, you missing one?”
We all laughed as it was funny and a clever way to diffuse the obvious insult. Much of the discrimination we get is from sarcasm, or underhanded comments designed to bring out that defensiveness. The interesting thing is that while I laughed, and the man’s coworkers all laughed I noticed the man did not.
He turned away with a defeated look in his eye. It would have been easy to dismiss the obvious pain in the mans face as deserving for saying such a comment. But upon inquiry with someone that knew him well, I discovered the man’s wife had in fact left him recently.
The pain he was bearing was being transferred to what he thought was an easy target; a polygamous man who obviously must be controlling and forcing his wives to stay with him (or whatever other justification he had conjured in his mind). I am not saying that every person that attacks me has suffered the same pain in their life. But behind every mean attack on our love and our family, is usually some pain or fear someone else is suffering.
Some of the biggest polygamy detractors are themselves a product of polygamy and you will find have had some terrible experience with their family, faith, or community and which they blame polygamy as the cause. Regardless of if they are from the culture or not, whether it is about polygamy or not, we have found that most people with hate or judgement either have a misunderstanding or ignorance of who you are, or they themselves are blinded by their own fear or pain they carry in themselves. Either way, we truly see the possibility of loving those who revile us. The world works a lot better this way.