Generation gap, gap between races and cultures — love knows no bounds. It bridges the gap. This doesn’t mean that love makes all people fit into a common pattern and behave in the same way. It does mean that love finds the way to establish peace and harmony, even where there is a difference of opinion, background, attitude and purpose.
Love doesn’t fight. It doesn’t force. It does communicate something that can minimize differences and emphasize likeness and enable those of different cultures, backgrounds and age groups to live together with understanding in a harmonious relationship.
Love enables individuals to communicate. Even when the language is different and the words are missing, love has a language all its own that gets across. Sometimes love communicates most effectively in silence. Unless there is a feeling of deep-down oneness and good will toward all others, words are meaningless, anyway.
Love bridges the gap between people of different generations, people of different nations and people of different opinions. It does it through realizing once again the principle of oneness.
Without having to fight or detail wrongs, it knows that what hurts one, hurts all, and what helps one, helps all. And it works from the basis of contributing to the overall storehouse of good, bringing a blessing to all, even those who are different.
“Hoist with His Own Petard”
You may not have realized it, but it is to your own advantage to live in peace and harmony with others. You can’t afford to waste time and energy concentrating on differences. You have better things to do in this world, and bridging the gaps in your life with love is one of them.
Have you ever been hoist with your own petard? It happens, even today. It can happen to you, unless you are willing to love, unless you are willing to take the steps necessary to solve conflicts and establish peace, unless you are willing to replace arguments with agreement.
In the olden days, when an army besieged a city, it was the custom to try to set a petard. This was an explosive charge designed to break down, or destroy, the gates of the enemy city.
Naturally, the job of engineering and setting up the petard was a hazardous one. Someone had to make his way to the gates of the enemy city with the supply of explosive. Then, after setting the charge, he had to leave quickly, or he would be the victim of the blast he had just set.
The term, “hoist with his own petard,” came to mean that one was caught up in the destructive blast of a trap he had set for another.
If you harbor anger or resentment, if you emphasize differences and try to use force to bring others to your way of thinking, if you try to take vengeance into your own hands, you run the danger of being hoist with your own petard, being caught in the very snare you have tried to set for another and being injured by it.
Suppose someone has done you an injustice. What should you do about it? How should you react? How can you avoid being hoist with your own petard?
The answer is simple. You’ll never be hurt by the trap set for another if you don’t set the trap. You’ll never be hoist with your own petard if you don’t stoop to setting a petard in the first place.
What of the wrongs done to you? Must you seek to bridge the gap by instigating punishment? Should you force others over on your side? Should you personally seek to hurt those who have seemingly hurt you?
Punishment is not the business of love. Force is not the business of love.
There is a law operating in the universe, and under this universal law each person’s thoughts and actions determine what he will have in his life. This is God’s business —the vengeance and the reward. Love is your business.
Temptation in the Park
This does not mean that you allow others to take advantage of you or that you encourage them in wrong-doing. It does mean that you find a harmonious, loving way to bridge gaps with understanding.
I know a woman who had learned a little bit about the law of love, but nothing about the law of directing love wisely, and she did a very unwise thing, in the name of love.
She worked not far from a park which had been the scene of all sorts of crimes in recent weeks, from robberies to murder. And she decided the park would be a good place to dramatize the role she had chosen of loving everybody.
She wandered down a secluded lane and settled herself on a park bench, alone. When some tough-appearing young boys passed by, she decided to bridge the gap with some loving conversation. While she talked to the boys and exchanged telephone numbers with them, another boy slipped up from the other side, grabbed her purse from the bench beside her and ran off with it.
The boys to whom she was talking called her attention to the other lad running off with her purse, but she made no effort to retrieve it. She simply sat and continued to tell her listeners all about love. They lis-tend for awhile, then went off to join their companion, who was waiting nearby with the loot.
This is not the way of love. Love does not go out of its way to invite difficulties and encourage wrongdoing. She contributed neither to herself nor to the boys she allowed to take her purse. Rather, she added to the problem that already existed in the park.
You don’t help another when you encourage him in wrongdoing. You don’t help someone when you make it easy for him to steal.
Love bridges the gap by preparing the way for something better, by helping others to help themselves — not in a condescending way, but with a sense of oneness with the good in all persons, by believing in the good and providing opportunities for it to express.
In a sense, the woman who went to the park was hoist with her own petard. She was playing with the power of love, testing an explosive charge which she didn’t really understand.
Love is not some toy with which you can experiment. It is a power which is to be directed wisely, but with a sense of compassion, caring for yourself and for all other persons.
This woman suffered some loss as the result of her light-handed approach to love. She could have lost a great deal more. But she did something even worse. She contributed to the wrongdoing of others. And this is certainly not the way of love.
Love cares enough to help, not to hinder, to contribute, not to withdraw, to encourage good thoughts and habits, not to pave the way for more wrongdoing. And love doesn’t force itself on others.
Agreements Begin in You
How, then, can you bridge the gap? How can you establish understanding on a sound basis through the power of love?
You do it through working with the principle of agreement, which is this:
Resistance brings pain and problems. But agreement with the good in any person or situation is the beginning of harmony and well being.
And agreement is something that takes place first within you, in the depths of your own being, not before an audience in the park.
Many people would like to do some spectacular thing to bridge the gap between groups of people, but no one is ready to accomplish the big project until he has first worked out the idea of agreement within himself.
This may not seem to offer a very speedy answer to the world’s problems, as you consider your own neighborhood and see how much needs to be done to establish understanding and peace. But it is the only answer that will work. Unless people are changed from within, conditions cannot be altered in the world. And those who attempt to bring about changes through outer methods only are doomed to disappointment.
In order to work with the law of agreement, you must first understand just what it means to agree, and then do it within yourself.
No one can endorse all of the opinions of others and keep his own integrity. Neither can one live happily with himself if he must seemingly approve of certain actions which he doesn’t approve in his own heart. But anyone can learn to agree, even with an adversary or one across the gap, when he considers the meaning of the word “agree.”
People do not always think in the same way, and sometimes there seems to be no possibility for a meeting of the minds. One who considers himself right usually refuses to consider the other fellow’s viewpoint, which he may believe is wrong, or even immoral or unjust.
Where there is no common meeting ground, there may seem to be no room for agreement or a solution of any kind. But there is always a basis for the establishing of harmony. This applies in differences of opinion with other individuals and also in different viewpoints, brought about by the gaps of age, race, religion or any other difference.
“Agree” not only carries the meaning of having the same opinion. It also is defined as “to be in harmony” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 18).
Individuals do not always have the same opinions on any subject. That is part of being an individual. But anyone can arrange to be “in harmony” with others in spite of their actions, their opinions and their words. He does it by reaching an attitude of agreement within himself, a sense of harmony with which he can consider the other people involved and the situation in general.
You can put yourself in harmony with other persons, regardless of experiences of the past, when you understand the potential of good within them. Everyone has it. If you search, you can discover it.
“Being in harmony” doesn’t necessarily mean feeling that the things he does are right. Neither does it mean sanctioning his opinions as your own. It does mean learning to live at peace with yourself and others, learning to find a sense of harmony, refusing to take issue with all the differences of opinion that arise.
You may not concur with another’s opinion, but you can harmoniously recognize his right to feel as he does. You may not believe that he did the right thing, but even if the action seemed wrong, you can remember that every person is essentially good. What right has anyone, really, to judge or condemn? Can you name one person who has never made a mistake?
Search for a basis of agreement, and you will find it. And when you do discover it, you will also pave the way for your own freedom from the bad effects of conflict, disagreement and condemnation. These never benefit anyone, least of all the one who sets himself up as a judge.
And if you do have difficulty in finding the good in any situation, or any person, don’t waste time arguing about it or mentally fighting about differences.
Rather, grant that there is good in all persons. Agree with this idea —for the sake of your own peace of mind. Do it quickly, and then let it take root inside of you and bear fruit in your relationships with others.
Differences will continue to exist. They not only exist between groups of individuals, but within the individuals of any given group. This is all right. People are not all the same, but they are all, in their essential nature, good. This is the knowledge that will enable you to find right, perfect and harmonious ways to bridge the gaps of understanding in your life. Many times if others are not content to live harmoniously in your world, they will simply move out of it, when you first establish a peaceful attitude within yourself.
The Snake in the Pumphouse
This law of agreement works in human relationships. It also works in other relationships and other environmental conditions.
Consider the case of the snake in the pumphouse.
A man who loved the outdoors and lived in the country hated snakes. This became a tremendous problem, because it was difficult to spend time outdoors in the country in the summertime without encountering snakes. It almost seemed that everywhere he went, he ran into snakes.
He felt such a strong revulsion for serpents of any kind or description that the moment he saw one, he would grab the nearest weapon, a hoe or an ax or even a stick, and kill it. He simply hated snakes. Even when he knew the snake was a harmless variety, he still attacked it in a fit of rage, just for being there.
Afterward, when the killing was over, he hated himself for his feeling of revulsion and anger, and also for the act itself.
One day he opened the pumphouse door, and there, curled comfortably in the corner behind the pump, was a three-foot long, black and brown snake. The man looked around for a weapon, but before he could find one, the little fellow had slithered under the concrete and was gone.
Every time this man went to the pumphouse, the snake was there. Two or three times he tried to kill it, but on each occasion, in the confined quarters, it got away.
One day it occurred to the man that the snake seemed friendly and apparently didn’t intend any harm.
After that, when he opened the pumphouse door, he came to expect to see the snake there. They would look at each other, and he began to wonder why the reptile found the pumphouse so appealing. The’man noticed that the snake had its head and tail under the pump, and he decided that maybe it found the vibration of the motor soothing.
One day he said to his wife, “You know, I think that little fellow in the pumphouse was sent to help me get over my feeling about snakes. I usually come on them unexpectedly, but I expect to see him now when I open the door.”
He added sheepishly, “I rather like him.”
Two days later, when he went in, the snake, which had been living in the pumphouse for a month, wasn’t there. He kept looking for it, but it never returned. It had finished its job of teaching the lesson of love to one who was willing to learn.
A loving attitude of agreement with the good does much to establish right relationships with others, be they man or beast.
And agreement begins in you!
“Not Saved in Bundles”
Love is an individual matter. It starts in you and spreads out from you to give a blessing to others. In the long run you will never really help others and bridge the gaps to whole groups of people unless you stop emphasizing differences and start looking for areas of agreement with other individuals.
Resistance brings pain and problems. But agreement with the good in any person or situation is the beginning of harmony and well being.
The world today is flooded with pre-mixed, pre fab concoctions of all kinds and sorts, but there is no premixed, pre-fab, quick-and-easy way to resolve differences between groups of people.
Love is the only way, and it is a way that must be travelled as each individual resolves the differences within himself and then is able to reach out and communicate with others. This may take time — quite a bit of time.
With his usual pithy insight into life and human nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson once commented:
“Souls are not saved in bundles.”
This is true. Souls simply are not saved “in bundles.” They do not enter into the kingdom of God-under-standing as a part of a group. Each one has to learn, to grow and to build in his own way. Each one must work out his own salvation and develop his ability to help others through inner growth in the areas of love and understanding.
If you would truly learn to bridge gaps with understanding and help other people of all faiths and backgrounds, first help yourself to a healthy dose of harmony by seeking the inner peace that passes all human understanding. This is the peace that you find when you retire into your innermost self and come into perfect agreement with the Spirit of Good in you.
When you are in tune and in harmony with God, the Lord of your being, you will know, in ways that are now beyond your human comprehension, how to bridge the gaps in your life, how to make the contacts and develop the likenesses that will enable you to live in peace and harmony with all people, regardless of deviations from your personal norm.
Hold the Light!
There is one caution that should be remembered in seeking to help others and to bridge the gaps with love and understanding.
Do all things in a spirit of compassion.
There is a difference between sympathy and compassion, an important difference that can mean failure or success in seeking to lend a helping hand.
You cannot help another until and unless you refuse to become emotionally disturbed about his problems!
The word “sympathy” means “the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings, interests, etc., of another” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 861).
Sometimes, in trying to bridge the gap between themselves and others, individuals, in a sense, take on the problems and difficulties of another, trying to feel what he is feeling, being unhappy because he is unhappy.
You never help another just by being sorry for him! Neither will you assist him by trying to share his trouble or suffering in your mind. Actually, trying to mentally join another person in his problems does not help him one iota, and it may disturb you so strongly that you have nothing to give him. Sympathy, entering into another’s mental or emotional suffering, increases the force of his difficulty, because you are adding your thought power to his and intensifying the condition in mind.
It isn’t necessary to experience another person’s problem in order to help him!
Does a policeman have to be hit by a car in order to help a child across the street safely? Does a doctor have to recover from a disease before he can treat the patient suffering from it? Must a lawyer go through litigation on his own account before he can represent a client? Of course not.
Neither do you have to completely experience another’s difficulty in order to help him in love.
Suppose another person falls into a hole. Do you have to tumble in after him to help him out? Wouldn’t you really be in a better position to help if you stayed on top and threw him a rope?
Suppose another car is stuck in the mud. Would you drive in after him to pull him out? No. You’ll do a better job of pulling if you have traction yourself.
Even if you can’t help to change another’s condition, you may be able to help him to help himself. Again, you must do it from the higher level.
I remember one time my husband’s tractor became stuck in the mud, and he was working to free it. I wanted very much to help, but knew I couldn’t actually do any good by joining him in the mud. However, I did manage to make a contribution. As it began to get dark, I held the light as he worked.
Sometimes all you can do to help another is to hold the light. But you can do this.
Compassion, Not Sympathy
You hold the light when you work from compassion, not from sympathy.
Compassion is an understanding love that does not seek to identify with another’s errors, problems or difficulties. Rather it loves and desires to help from the higher level of faith, rightly directed faith — faith in the other’s potential of health, success and harmony, rather than belief in his illness, failure or shortcoming of any type.
Instead of attempting to share the other person’s problem, love him enough to believe that he can do and be something greater. Don’t even give conversational support to the thing that appears to be wrong, but direct all of your energies, mental and spiritual, to realizing for the other person his potential of good.
You hold the light for another when you silently speak to him, with love in your heart and faith in your whole being. Say to him, in the silence of your own being, “You were designed for health and happiness, and I see you claiming these gifts from God now!” Say it. Believe it. Picture him as happy, healthy, victorious. Help him in any way that you can, but help him the most by believing in him.
Don’t condone error, but recognize always that he has the ability to do better.
If it is necessary to correct another in some way or to help him make a more harmonious adjustment to others, love him enough to do what is necessary to help. But do it in love.
Instead of lashing out with anger and a complete lack of understanding of his viewpoint, bridge the gap by first praising him for something he has done or can do well, and then work with him in love to help overcome the wrong. Make your suggestion, but make sure that he knows you love him and believe in him, that you have faith that he can be greater than he is now. He can. And you, too, will be greater as you bridge the gap in kindness and strength.
It doesn’t matter what the gap, or what the past history, love will bridge the distance, when you are willing to work from the highest viewpoint.
Find some point of agreement, harmony, with others. Work from compassion, a strong and understanding faith in good. Hold the light to help another across, and you will find that you have made it, too!
Differences may continue to exist, but love is the common denominator.
© 1986, Winifred Wilkinson Hausmann
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.