Malevolent or Benevolent –
Last night I listened to a podcast about the psychology of a stalker. A young woman, through no fault of her own, had encountered a patron at her work and treated him nicely, the way she did every customer. The man who received her professional courtesy and kindness took it as a gesture of a personal declaration of her love for him. From then on he would show up at her work, her home, parties and other places. At first, he would watch her for hours, then he began writing poetry, calling her at home, declare his love for her and her for him at different and unexpected places. She reported his behavior to the police, depended on friends to keep him away, moved twice to locations almost five-hundred miles apart. Still, he found her.
He wrote a blog about being a stalker in which he wrote about a love that was benevolent; kind, kindly, kindhearted, big-hearted, good-natured, good, benign, compassionate, caring. He insisted she misunderstood him and accused him of being malevolent; malicious, hostile, evil-minded, baleful, evil-intentioned, venomous, evil, malign, malignant, rancorous, vicious, vindictive, vengeful. He had plans of “fake” kidnapping her and after she went away with him, falling in love with him. His behavior was spiraling and finally, after attacking another woman, he was put in jail for thirteen months for assault, stalking and predatory behavior. Before, during and after being incarcerated, he wrote a book about a man who fell in love with a beautiful woman who eventually learned to love him. People can find the book for sale online today and the blog he still writes.
Love gone wrong, gone bad, corrupted, coercive and corrosive is not love but selfishness painted in illusion. As I listened to the podcast last night I couldn’t help but think a lot of what’s wrong with our world today is people not knowing the difference between malevolent and benevolent.
This morning at church the reverend closed the service by asking people to come to down to the front altar and pray for a woman who was leaving with a team of people to go to Africa on a mission trip. She knelt and many of the people in attendance gathered around her. As someone began to pray I heard a sound; “Clank. Silence. Clank. Silence.” I looked up and saw an elderly woman moving towards the group using a walker. By the time she made it up to the front, they were almost finished with the prayer but that didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was she wanted to be a part of the group, show her support, be closer to the one who was leaving, because she cared and caring most often requires our presence.
As she struggled I reflected on this woman and her concern for the other overcoming her condition. The world as we know it seems to be coming apart at the seams. Institutions, foundations, and truths we thought would last forever are crumbling before our eyes. What do we do? How do we stop it or at least stem the tide? I think we should do as the woman did this morning. We recognize our weakness, our lack of power and control, but still run, walk, crawl, towards a need and be present, change what we can by getting closer. When things are too big, too unruly, too far gone, it’s easier to stay where we are, shrug our shoulders and say; “There wasn’t anything we could’ve done.” or we can get “some “skin in the game.” We can try. We can put forth the effort with an attitude that only those who show up can make a difference.
Presence Equals Influence –
In a few weeks, the community organization I work for and a pregnancy center in Bedford county Tennessee will be hosting a breakfast for dads. I met with the director of the pregnancy center today to go over the details and take a tour of the facility. It was a productive time together and I was able to see and feel the heart of the woman who has dedicated her life to save every child possible, help every family possible.
At the breakfast, I will be speaking with the dads regarding their importance to their families, especially their children. One of the mottoes we use at the Fatherhood Engagement Project is; “Presence Equals Influence.” If you’re not present you cannot have the impact on their lives of those who need you most.
Presence being a prerequisite for influence is not just true for dads but for us all. There are so many ills in our society today. At times it can be so overwhelming figuring out where to start and what to do to help. We give up before we’ve even tried.
If our lives are to be a positive influence in this desperate world the first thing we have to do is show up and then believe we can make a difference with what happens next.