Ferguson… Staten Island… What’s next? Every time I check the news it seems like this world is spinning out of control. It seems like every few days there is another local tragedy that is having a national impact. People are getting killed… and rather than responding, most of us seem to be simply reacting.

While the people directly affected are processing these tragedies through intense emotions, people around the country seem to feel the need to weigh in with reactions of condemnation, vilification and extremism. Political pundits seem more interested in argumentation then understanding. My Facebook feed seems to often get more filled with opinion than compassion. It seems too often that people are throwing up unfiltered reaction and not a thoughtful response to tragedy.

A person who reacts, demonstrate a lack of control and a lack of thought. A person who responds, demonstrates control and thought.

Please don’t get me wrong… I don’t have the specific facts, details and evidence to make an argument about the specific details of the situation in Ferguson or the issue in Staten Island. The loss of any life is tragic. The hurts and emotions are not contrived. No one wants the current social trajectory to continue. However, what makes us think things will change if no one on either side is willing to, as Gandhi challenged, “become the change we wish to see in the world.” If I don’t change… things won’t change. If you don’t change… Things won’t change. Telling others how to feel and act doesn’t work. Each of us needs to harness our own reactions and seek to respond in a way that moves our world to address the tensions with which we are struggling.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said something to the effect of, “protests are the voice of the unheard.” While riots and violence are abhorrent, why are so many people feeling unheard? I don’t like that I live in a society where unarmed people are killed. I don’t like that I live in a society where people react through violence and looting. How should I respond?

Jesus Christ once said, that the greatest response is to “love God and… love your neighbor as yourself.” Here is what I know… the unarmed men that have been killed are my neighbors. The police who have been trained to react as they have are my neighbors. The rioters are my neighbors. The political pundits and social activists are my neighbors. The people in my Facebook feed that hate the police are my neighbors. The people who vilify the men who have been killed are my neighbors. How will I react? Honestly, I don’t want to react. I want to respond… in love!

Hate doesn’t bring healing. Hate filled reaction always makes things worse. Love filled response is not natural, but it is the only thing I see that can move us in a different direction. This isn’t a quick resolution.

What if I respond in love? What if you respond in love. What if more of us respond in love to each of our neighbors? We will get One Grip Higher. And ultimately, healing will have room to grow and maybe the trajectory of our society will begin to move in a better direction.

Will you react… or respond?

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