At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, many people made comments and criticisms of the speech by President Trump. Most of those comments were accurate but they all ignored a very good message by Dr. Arthur Brooks. He is a Harvard professor and former president of the American Enterprise Institute. He has been on radio with me, and I often quote from his books and articles.
He attempted to diagnose the political division and social upheaval in our society today. He explained that the “problem is what psychologists call contempt.” The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer defined contempt as “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.” The political problem is that “we treat each other as worthless, which is why our fights are so bitter and cooperation feels nearly impossible.”
This isn’t the first time Arthur Brooks has talked about the problem of contempt, but it may have been the first time a majority of the people in that room heard him address it in such an elegant way. And he offered three homework assignments for those gathered at the National Prayer Breakfast.
First, he said they should ask God to give them strength to do the hard thing and follow the teachings of Jesus and love their enemies. “Ask God to remove political contempt from your heart. In your weakest moments, maybe even ask Him to help you fake it.”
Second, everyone should “make a commitment to another person to reject contempt.” In other words, have someone hold you accountable “to love your enemies.” Third, go out “looking for contempt, so you have the opportunity to answer it with love.”
I appreciated the fact that he admitted that even he has struggled with trying to apply this consistently. But I think we would all agree that our world and our political discourse would be better if we followed his advice. Then let’s go out and do it.