How can you change someone’s mind? It’s usually not worth the effort and will make you only more frustrated and angry. If it does succeed it may be just a superficial adjustment not a real metanoia.
Touching the heart of someone, who cannot change their mind because their heart has turned to stone, is the better approach. If it fails, you may be saddened but probably not enraged. When the feeling of failure passes, hope will spring up again and push you even against your better judgement to try again even when it makes you look like a bigger fool than before.
But how do you touch the heart of a tyrant, a psychopath or a fanatic? For them to see the suffering they are causing will not achieve it. But surprising them can. As I said yesterday, it’s like the surprise that accompanies every manifestation of love. We may have imagined it or yearned for it but we couldn’t ever be prepared for it. This is one of the aspects of poverty of spirit or emptiness that we develop in meditation: the capacity to be innocently and genuinely surprised by reality.
When you confront an opponent with a closed heart you need to open your own heart wider. This is much more than an emotion or a good intention. It is opening yourself to their rejection and ridicule. You will not look heroic or noble, at least to yourself or the people around you at the time. In the moment of confrontation, when the opponent is looking for the next punch or dirty trick you are going to throw at him, you instead welcome suffering from him. He will inflict more and more waiting for you to react with hatred or violence. But the more you suffer the more your heart opens. The only chance of opening a closed heart in another is to open your own heart to them.
Be practical? Does it mean the Ukrainians should roll over without defending themselves? I don’t believe so. It means that in defending themselves because of the love they have for their country but without closing their hearts in hatred of the individuals hurting them, they are opening their hearts even wider. And seeing an open heart in an opponent surprises you and may become a breach in the stony heart that cannot be filled and the stone wall shutting off the heart just may begin to crumble.
In terms of Lent this is fast-forwarding to Good Friday. It is not a political or military strategy but a mystical one arising from profound faith in the goodness of human nature. It is a powerful weapon, eventually the only one that doesn’t run out of ammunition.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022