Too often in our politics, as well in our lives, we follow the philosophy laid out by Machiavelli — that the ends justify the means. To achieve this end, we pursue means which will allow us to attain it, regardless of the damage done in the meantime, or the corruption of our country or community.
Political campaigns are run and policies pushed which we believe are for the good of the country in a manner that leaves important values neglected and broken. This has become especially apparent over the last few years. Disrespecting others, dividing us into hateful tribes, adopting mean-spirited and hateful ways, and treating integrity and honesty as naive seems like the norm. Once we employ malicious means, we all suffer in the process.
It is time we forget Machiavelli, and realize that power or wins gained through illicit means leave us all lost in this world. Let us turn this ends-justify-the-means approach on its head, and move toward means justifying the ends.
Looking at the expanse of civilization, we can be assured that if the means are good, if they are based on love and engaging all with dignity, then the ends will be just fine. Putting peaceful relationships ahead of gains through warring factions will allow us to bring the common good to fruition.
As a Christian, I was reflecting on all of this after chapel this past Sunday. Jesus advocated throughout the Gospels for a means-justify-the-ends path. He was all about the means, because he believed that if we loved each other, including our enemies (talk about a radical and revolutionary command!), then we would be establishing the Kingdom of God here in our midst.
Jesus’ constant and consistent ministry was focused on treating strangers decently and with compassion, welcoming the outcasts, forgiving those who trespass against us, feeding the hungry, and loving one another. He didn’t say if you want to get to heaven, do this. He said do this, and heaven will be here on Earth.
Rather than just seeing this as the bigger picture, we each might look at it as the small steps we make in our daily life. I often get impatient if I am stuck in traffic and need to get somewhere fast. Or if I am waiting in line at the grocery or hardware store and somebody in front of me is taking too long. We might honk at someone or raise our voice trying to convey we don’t have time for this because we need to get somewhere. We focus on the end we want, and lose touch with the means and moment we are in.
What brings us peace and joy on a daily basis? Being kind, patient and calm, and letting go of our ends. Once we settle into the means of our interactions and being present compassionately, we ultimately achieve the ends we truly want — a pursuit of happiness and a less stressful existence.
Many Trump supporters and the president himself want to win so badly, they discard the values they raise their children with, and accept behaviors that are unethical or unacceptable.
Other citizens of this country see President Trump as a danger, and want him removed by any means necessary. While I understand this view, conducting our politics in a way that damages our relationships will only make matters worse in the long term. Allowing our country to devolve into hate-filled tribes will do incredible damage, and though we might win in the short term, we will break all the bonds which bind us together in our common humanity.
Yes, we must point out the truth, battle for justice, and look out for others who are damaged in the process. But let us use love to conquer hate, let us win with integrity, let us put peace before war, and let us not forget the spark of the divine which resides in each of us. It is only then that we can transform a world for the better.
I fall short on Christ’s command each day, but I am willing to arise each morning as the sun greets me with a new beginning, realizing that when we put the means before the ends in our politics, our economy and our personal lives, we can live in a world where joy and peace are common.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.
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