Arthur Brooks on moving from contempt … to civility … to love

November 26, 2018

In this season of thanksgiving and gift-giving, Sutherland Institute wants to share a gift – a series, actually. Between now and the end of 2018, we’ll share important messages from our memorable gala keynote on the blog. This post is part 3 of 4.

Arthur Brooks, in his speech at the 2018 Sutherland Annual Gala, covered contempt, the solution to contempt, and how to move towards civility and ultimately love.

Watch the short video clip below to hear Arthur map out the way to love in American policy and politics.

Or read the transcript:

“We need a revolution of love in this country. Question is, how’re we going to do that? How are we going to do that? Now it’s worth pointing out that we’re not contemptuous, terrible people. Look, I’m guilty of this; we’re all guilty of this occasionally. Why? Because contemptuous political discourse is a matter of habit. How do you break a habit? Don’t just stop doing something – you put something else in this place. That’s how you break a habit. OK, so people who are trying to give up smoking, what do they do? Every time they want to have a cigarette, they get up and they walk around the block, something like that.

“We have to break the habit of contempt by putting something else in its place. When you feel contempt rising in you because somebody says something that you think is stupid and idiotic and maybe a little evil, and you want to express something else, what do you do? I went in search of the answer to this question, and I came to the wisest man I know. A man you just met in the trailer to this movie that’s going to be debuting over the coming six months, ‘The Pursuit,’ you just saw it. That man appeared in the end of that trailer. It is his holiness the Dalai Lama. And I said, ‘Your Holiness, what do I do when I feel contempt?’ and he said, ‘Practice warm-heartedness.’ And I said, ‘You got anything else?’ Because that sounds weak to me – warm-heartedness in the face of something strong like contempt. That doesn’t sound very persuasive. But then I thought for a second. Some of you know a little bit about the Dalai Lama. If you don’t, he’s the leader of the Tibetan people. He was exiled in the 1950s by the Communist Chinese when they overran Tibet. They kicked him out. He led his people into exile who were pacifists and poor. The entire nation of Tibet is 6 million people in a country at that time of 900 million people. He was kicked out to be forgotten, to disappear – and he became over the next 60 years the world’s most respected religious leader. How did he do it? That’s why I asked him, ‘How did you do it?’ He said, ‘It’s very simple. I start every day by praying for the Chinese leaders.’ ‘Praying for the Chinese leaders? What, that they’ll give you back your homeland?’ ‘No no no no. So I pray that they’ll have happy lives and they’ll have happy families.’ See, praying for your enemies, loving your enemies. Matthew 5:44, right folks? These are the Beatitudes. I was reminded of that by a Buddhist, amazing. And so he said – in that moment I realized, you know, I’d thought that warm-heartedness is weak. No no no no – you know what’s weak? Contempt. Because that’s when you’re reacting to the way that somebody treats you. Warm-heartedness is for strong people; love is for strong people – kindness, compassion in the face of contempt. That’s for strong people. That’s an opportunity for us to be our best selves.”

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