Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The repeated violent events of recent weeks have been heartbreaking, frightening, and confusing. It’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to process and understand what’s happening in the world. We want to do something that can help, but wonder what we could possibly to do help make real change.
If you believe, or are willing to consider, that we are all connected and creating our reality, then there are things you can do right now in your own inner world to make a difference. Here’s one way:
Make a commitment, to the best of your ability, to disengage yourself from all forms of attack.
You attack every day. I attack every day. We do it rarely in our actions, sometimes in our speech, and regularly in our thoughts.
Any blameful statement or thought about yourself or another person is a form of attack.
Any time you feel righteous in judging or punishing yourself or someone else because they did wrong, that is a form of attack.
The shooters all felt righteous or justified in their actions. We know they were not thinking correctly. We know they were lost when they made those choices. This is clear to us.
But some things are not as clear to us. Though we are not murderers or bombers, we may still hold violent beliefs. We may believe in punishment, retaliation, and revenge on people who wrong us. We may believe that it’s normal and even healthy to counter attack someone who has attacked us. In our culture, these types of beliefs are status quo, politically and socially. In many circles, this way of thinking is accepted as normal.
This is where we have a blind spot.
Can Violence Create Peace?
In response to our grief and sadness over the violence we’ve seen and felt, we may talk and gather to promote peace. If at the same time we harbor hateful, judgmental, or vengeful thoughts about the gunmen, the police, or anyone involved, we are perpetuating the very energy we desire to stop.
If it’s okay to attack certain people at certain times but not okay to attack other people, then which people get attacked and when is a subjective decision that’s rationalized through whatever belief system we’re operating under at the moment. This approach relies on vilifying the “other” to justify overtaking and dominating the things that scare or threaten us. This may seem to work to control conflict in the short term, but over time the energy of violence continues to build.
Today we find ourselves in a violent and volatile situation wondering how we got here.
Until we can reconsider counterattack as a go-to response to feeling vulnerable, how can peace begin to grow around us?
We Are Creators
We are all individuals contributing to the collective tone and mood of our country and world—as creators. Our daily thoughts and words have physical power. Can we find the courage to look within ourselves for the hidden places where we may be perpetuating the very things we fear?
Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed this so eloquently when he spoke about how darkness cannot drive out darkness. Hate + hate = only more hate. If we want less hate and violence in the world (and if you are still reading, I believe you do) we need not wait for law enforcement or government to bring it to us. We can choose to reduce the hate that comes out of us as individuals.
Notice your reaction as you read the next sentences.
I am never justified in attacking anyone or anything. When I feel the desire to attack as a path toward safety or justice, I am not seeing things clearly.
The No-Attack Diet
I invite you to participate in this exercise as a humble but powerful gesture to honor the people who have been attacked, hurt, or killed in the past weeks and months.
We can reduce hate and judgment in the world by reducing it in ourselves. Not only do we have the power to do something, we are the only ones who have power over what we create as individuals. Don’t minimize your individual thoughts and words as insignificant— they contain the power of creation. This matters—and if you make a change, it will make a difference.
It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one
who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion.
The other is mere business.
I first heard the saying "bloom where you're planted" when I was in college. I was talking with a friend who was a year or two older, expressing my dissatisfaction with living in the Midwest and how I longed to live somewhere else. I don't recall the specific dissatisfaction--maybe I was dissatisfied with local culture, the climate, or state politics. Whatever it was, when I was done making my case for why I would be much better somewhere else, she looked at me in an neutral, matter-of-fact way and said, "You can bloom wherever you're planted." I was stopped in my tracks. I felt the truth--and the freedom--in her words to my core.
Over the years the truth in this concept has sunk in more deeply, offering levels of interpretation that go beyond physical location alone. The underlying message for me is that no matter what your physical circumstances are (location, environment, physical body, finances, relationships, current skills and talents) you can either choose to focus on how a different set of circumstances would be easier or more desirable, or you can choose to focus on taking the next steps to grow from where (and who) you are.
When left unchecked, our critical minds tend toward dissatisfaction and comparison, seeing the grass ever greener over there. If you find yourself falling into this line of thinking, it's rather normal, so don't be too hard on yourself. Appreciate your awareness. Think of the seed that happened to land in the crack on a sidewark, or the tree you saw growing off a cliff made of seemingly pure rock. Recall the flowers that sprout and bloom from the most unlikely places, and see if you can take a step toward acceptance--of yourself, your situation, and how you got here. Simply taking a breath and saying to yourself. "I am willing to accept this situation" can create the opening for a shift.
The wonderful and maddening thing about acceptance is that when you finally do reach acceptance of what is before you and where you're at, that's when the door opens to your next step.
Inspiration is everywhere--even in the cracks in the sidewalk. Begin where you are.