“I want to be more loving in my heart! It is often easy to see it with my mind, and give assent to the thought of being loving. But I want to be more loving in my heart! So I must ease the tension in my heart that ejects the sharp barb, the stinging word. I want to be more loving in my heart so that, through both unconscious awareness and deliberate intent, I shall be a kind, gracious human being. I want to be more loving in my heart!” —Howard Thurman.
Howard Thurman was an African American theologian and educator who greatly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., in the theology of racial nonviolence in our last century. I read into this quote that Dr. Thurman is actually praying to connect to love, to the Christ, the divine, within himself. I also hear the difficulty he may be having “ejecting the sharp barb.” We can be comforted in knowing that this great proponent of nonviolence knows it is not an easy task. He is praying that when we connect to this love, the divine within, that we will love others and “be a kind and gracious human being” consciously as well as an unconsciously.
Dr. Thurman is reminding us that when we are living in connection with the Holy Spirit, the divine within us, we will know the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). But how do we get there? This is the calling of every spiritual practice: meditation, prayer, reading, corporate worship, fasting, and so many others, to put ourselves in position to connect to God within.
Perhaps if Paul were writing today he might have told his scribe to use the word “nonviolence” as one of the fruit of the Spirit even though it is already so loudly speaking out in all the other fruit of the Spirit.
I am praying that Dr. Thurman is still praying for us today to learn to “love from our hearts” in these times when the message of nonviolence is so needed.