Immaculée Ilibagiza crouched beside seven other women in a cramped twelve square foot bathroom in Rwanda for three months, being careful not to make a sound so the bloodthirsty Hutu killing raids would not discover them and thrust their bodies onto the piles of rotting corpses that were Immaculée’s family and fellow Tutsis.
To accompaniment of screams and stench of death through the tiny bathroom window, Immaculée searched for and found love. Completely justified to hate the Hutus, Immaculée knew hate would only serve to perpetuate and prolong decades of hatred which caused the most devastating genocide of our time.
With the saintly dignity and poise of a modern-day Mother Teresa, Immaculée shares a powerful message of love and forgiveness with audiences around the world who have far less reason to hate.
Immaculée knew she could not control her enemies’ actions towards her, but she could choose and control her own attitude toward her enemies. She did not choose her circumstances, but she did choose and even work to obtain her perspective. In that moment, she chose freedom – and instantly became free.
What was the choice which brought such freedom? She chose to love her haters. She chose to look past what the killers were doing and love who they were.
Though she deeply felt the terror of one immersed in the physical and psychological horror of a holocaust, she chose genuine love for everyone – especially those who showed up as horrifically cruel.
From a normal human perspective, to choose love in such a horrifying situation seems illogical, even pathological. From a psychological perspective, however, Immaculée’s constructive response to the atrocities of Rwanda was not only practical, it was critical to her survival and ultimate success.
This intentionally constructive response enhanced her personal power much more than hate, recrimination, or retribution ever could have. If Immaculée Ilibagiza can successfully achieve peace through the power of a love choice in such extremely desperate circumstances, what does this imply for you and me? What can you and I do when we are feeling captured, arrested, imprisoned, stuck, overwhelmed? Choose love. This choice is always available to us under any circumstance.
What do we do with those who love us? Love them! That’s easy.
What do we do with those who hate us? Love them! That’s hard.
Our mind is built for hard work, and like a well-bred work horse, the well trained mind loves tough challenges. As we practice choosing love, it becomes a habit.
Elevation requires lift. Lift requires positive pressure. Sustained positive effort creates the changes we need. The love choice is higher ground. The view is fantastic. Love lifts and heals hurt. As we firmly, but kindly order our mind to do so, our mind will, after some initial resistance, work very hard to support the love choice. The more painful or difficult the situation, the harder it is to choose love. Yes, that is true, and the more positively life altering it is when we do so.
Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.
~ Desmond Tutu