Laying awake at 4 am trying to grasp for straws. Social media is a whirlwind of people falling on either side of a debate that shouldn’t be. There’s been violence once again in our country. White cops, black civilians and vice versa. Just a short time ago, it was an Islamic man and homosexuals. In a country that’s supposed to be about equality, there sure is a lot of hatred and brutality based on differences.

I just can’t understand it, if I’m being honest. Other than offering prayers, I don’t usually fall on either side of these debates. I don’t feel like I can speak with any kind of authority in these situations, so I just keep quiet. I’m a white girl from a small town. What do I really know about race relations? My only solid experiences were at two very different universities (one Christian and one secular), where people really just wanted to help others, especially those who faced hardship. There wasn’t any violence or even hateful words in, in my experience, despite students from widely varying backgrounds coming together. We got to know each other and shared perspectives on how to help those who struggled around us. I didn’t really get an education on why people of different races and religions hate one another, because we didn’t.

When I finished at these places, I went back to minister in small town, America. I don’t really face “race relations” on a daily basis because of where I live. I just end up watching things unfold around my country, and I sit aghast in wonder. Why is this happening in a country where people are supposed to be free to be themselves?

I’m sure there are a million answers and things that need to change in communities very different from my own, but I can only speak to mine. Although the media covers violence in the us-and-them settings, hatred driven crime exists everywhere. There are a few factors at play, in my opinion:

1. Fear is a close companion to violence. Fear drives people to make unloving decisions. Although fear is a natural feeling, when it goes beyond an emotion or thought and becomes an attitude and motivation, we choose savage self preservation over loving and guarding our neighbors.

2. Humility is vital to relationships and peace. Some of my favorite and most enlightening conversations were born out of my willingness to admit my own ignorance. We have to stop pretending that we know everything. If we ask honest questions, we might just get to know our neighbors and find a common ground.

3. Admitting our own weaknesses will bring us together. If this blog says nothing else about me it should be clear that I’m not shy about my own mess. I’ve learned that vulnerability leads to a greater level of connectedness within communities. When we open up about our human condition, it causes the differences that seem significant to fall into the background. We are all broken and need to feel like we belong.

I may not be able to solve the problems between the races, but I will teach my children to ignore prejudice and get to know the hearts and needs of those around them. I may not know all the answers, but I know that Jesus said the commandment second only to loving God is to love our fellow man (Matthew 22). Opinions about race, religion, sexual orientation, and social status don’t matter. Love is the command. That I can obey.