Every day I see people saying how much they want there to be love and peace in the world. I do it too. We want people to stop hating, to be kind, to be considerate, compassionate and respectful. We also want people to be wiser, stronger, braver.
In fact, it seems we all have a long list of things we expect from other people. Lots of shoulds and shouldn’ts. Even truly kind, loving and patient people have a hard time making it through an entire day without being rubbed the wrong way or feeling deflated by another’s actions at some point in their day.
There is nothing wrong with having our own perspective of how we wish to see things go. Each of us brings unique view of the world and this world would give us less to learn if that weren’t true.
But what happens when you feel yourself getting aggravated because someone is taking longer than you feel they should in front of you in line? Or they are behind you in line and are rushing you to finish?
What happens when you see a news story where people died because people were displaying their religious or political views in a violent way?
What do you do when someone speaks aggressively to you out of their own hate or their own intolerance for another’s hate? Or in any number of similar situations throughout the day when our views and needs push up against the views and needs of another?
Most all of us react, at least inside ourselves, at least for a moment, by wanting the person we are upset with to behave differently. We are internally alarmed that this person is not following the path we have decided is the safe and appropriate one. We are angry or afraid.
So our typical reaction is to respond by hating back or being angry with those who are angry. So that news story that outraged us? What is outrage but violence? When we rage about something we feel is wrong are we actually changing it or are we sending more hate and anger out into the world?
Emotions can be signals for us to make a change. These emotions are meant to protect us. But we can also get very swept away by the chemical reactions they create in our bodies. We can start to believe everything these chemical reactions tell us and we can develop thoughts and stories–lots of them–to back all this up.
Maybe a change does need to be made when we hear another story about a murder or a suicide or you hear others gossiping. But maybe the first change needs to start with how we respond inside ourselves.
Maybe we can pay attention to how we tend to our emotions and our thoughts and treat them as real things that have an effect on the world, because they do. Other people’s emotions and thoughts are what created the very issues we react to all day, right? We can’t ever change other people’s emotions and thoughts. But we can deal with our own. Those we can change.
When we feel someone is sending anger and hate toward us, it is hard to respond with something different. Your mind tells you it is only safe to respond with anger and hate. But that only creates more of the same. It is the mentality that starts arguments, leads to murders, suicides and wars. It leaves us all empty.
We can teach our brains that it is safe to respond differently. We can learn to respond to our body sensations and our breath and recognize that underneath it all, we are feeling the need to protect ourselves or society. By responding to our immediate surroundings, body sensations and breath, we can begin to calm down a bit. We can see choices.
Sometimes the choice is simply to release the need to react. To have compassion for another’s human failings, just as we have failings throughout our own day. But, even if an action does need to be taken, having the space of calmness opens our mind to seeing what responses might make a true change in the situation. And it allows us to respond with an open heart as well.
Change made from an open heart and an open mind is expansive, creative and loving. It heals. Change that is attempted from a reactionary place of indignation, resentment or outright hate may even lead to something happening. We may even call this a change, but it will seldom be for the long term good and it will never be loving or healing. It is not growth.
I know we really want the world to heal. I know we really want to see, feel and experience love and peace in the world. I know we all want to be supported and accepted in the world. We each have to take our own responsibility for our part in that puzzle.
That doesn’t mean working harder to make the other guy change. It means we each have to keep taking a closer look inside. Over and over, all day long, every single day. And changing ourselves .
Not by shaming ourselves, but by being gentle, loving and strong with ourselves. We have to be our own guides and the kindest parents and teachers we could have ever hoped for.
As we practice that with ourselves each day, we will begin to practice love and kindness with each other more easily. As our sharp reactions change to loving and wise responses, the people around us will begin to respond differently. As our energy shifts, it will ripple out. Start within yourself. Have peace there first.