Sharing our stories and opinions can help us obtain justice, equality, and freedom. Even though we may feel very upset about the many injustices in life, we have to acknowledge that only love can solve problems. Hate cannot.
We have to manage anger, so that we can talk about difficult matters in a well-balanced way. When stories and living situations affect us on a personal level, it can be very difficult to remain calm and logical. Sometimes it is healthy to take a step back to look at the big picture. And sometimes it is essential to talk with other people who strive for peace and justice, so that we can encourage each other along the way.
If we would like to help people make positive changes, we need to develop understanding first. We need to do a lot of listening, which requires our effort to put aside our own stories, and just focus on the person sitting in front of us. The other person needs to feel understood.
No matter what the situation, if we can help people talk about their concerns and their feelings, and really listen to what they tell us, we are letting them know we care deeply about them. (Fred Rogers)
Trust and rapport must come before advice. Trust needs to be built with time, consistency, understanding, and common ground. Finally, before giving any advice, we need people’s consent to do so.
Nature dictates that it is virtually impossible to accept advice from someone unless you feel that that person understands you. (John Gottman)
However, when imminent danger or harm is involved, advice needs to be given promptly. Even then, our demeanour must remain calm and rational.
If our purpose is to help people and communities improve, we cannot simply vent our anger. Truth can still be presented accurately when we use a respectful voice. And when we do that, people get to hear what we have to say, and they may start to contemplate. If our voice is not calm and respectful, it is unlikely that we will persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree with us.
To really be of help to others we need to be guided by compassion. (Dalai Lama)
For most of us, we can easily develop compassion for the people whom we love and understand deeply. We need to extend that love and deep understanding to people or communities who are enemies, or opponents, before we can help influence them.
It is not enough simply to wish that love and compassion grow within us. We need a sustained effort to cultivate such positive qualities. (Dalai Lama)
It is hard work… especially if our opponents have done harm to us, to our loved ones, or to our community. It is all too easy to slip back to anger, frustration, sadness, and hatred. It takes time and practice to be able to communicate about and communicate with our opponents in a gentle, respectful tone of voice.
Without understanding, we cannot help change any person, let alone a community. Change is never easy. If we are passionate about helping people make positive changes, we need to practice understanding, patience, tolerance, respect, and compassion.
How can we stay calm and logical? It can help to talk to other people who strive for peace. It can help to read about the lives of great peacemakers. And it can help to learn the historical stories of our opponents. Once we can develop understanding, compassion can easily follow. So learn their stories. Learn their cultures. Learn their histories. You may gain some valuable insights, which can help you let go of any strong feeling. And you may come up with constructive plans that can help influence other people in a positive manner.
You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. (Oliver Goldsmith)
Childhood & Therapy
I encourage all of us to learn more about human rights and human suffering. In particular, take time to hear the stories of those who have survived child abuse. This can become a foundation to more deeply understand other problems in relationships, families, communities, or nations.
The effects of child abuse involve many layers of suffering. Every case is different, but at the same time, every case has some similarities. To ignore the effects of child abuse can lead to a whole range of unwise life decisions and behaviours later on.
The happiness of childhood, the calming of a child’s fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence depend directly upon love. (Dalai Lama)
Our genes, upbringing, experiences, politics, and society can all play a role in shaping our minds, beliefs, and manners. However, I strongly believe that each of us has a choice to be a respectful and kind person no matter where we came from and what we have been through.
People who have survived abusive childhoods may need therapeutic support in order to grow healthily. Without an experience of loving, consistent care in childhood, it can be hard to develop the loving, caring part of ourselves unless we have some extra help.
Movement towards resilience doesn’t happen in isolation. Nor is it linear or neat. It’s messy work, with healing emerging through community and solidarity. (Kristen Lee)
If we can imagine what it is like to live someone else’s childhood, maybe we can all develop love and compassion easily, even if that person behaved harmfully in the past. If we have mastered this type of understanding and let go of our anger, we can practice seeing even a country as a “person.” Every country has its “childhood,” and most countries have been through wars or other traumatic struggles. We can be good citizens of our country, if we have empathic understanding of our country’s history. Some countries have been through so much turmoil that they have a sort of large-scale traumatic injury as well as “personality issues.” For some, without having fully healed from their wounds, they exclude, control, or attack others… perhaps subconsciously thinking that these tactics could protect themselves or help them rise. Yet, of course, this type of behaviour prevents others from liking or supporting them.
If a victim of abuse behaves kindly, it becomes easy for us to develop compassion. But what if a victim of abuse behaves rudely or abusively?
The divine instruction of Christian theology to “love your enemies” is much easier said than done. It is important to strive to love our enemies: this is one of the keys to world peace. If we can all practice understanding a person’s or a community’s or a country’s “childhood,” then maybe loving the people who have done harm to us can become possible.
Loving our enemies is an abstract idea, which requires a long debate from all different angles to explore its meaning. I can only share my brief opinion here. I think loving our enemies refers to the idea that we do not attack our opponents, and we do not treat them the way they treated us. We can seek justice, but in a peaceful and rational way. We can take our time to work on letting go of hatred and nurture forgiveness instead. We do not have to like them; to say that we like them may be a bit naïve and deceptive… because if we actually like the people who practice abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative behaviour, we lose our values, and we are not standing with justice or the victims of injustice. But when our enemies are truly remorseful, sincerely apologize to us, and make real amends, we may accept them and support them to change.
Imagine a person who was once mean to you. But imagine that they are now attending a therapy session with you. Imagine them telling their childhood stories, in a therapeutic setting. This could help your anger to dissipate. Sometimes, people who have done harm may not have self-awareness, and they may insist that they have no problems at all. This could be understood as a resistance in their therapy, which needs to be managed through patience, empathy, and strict boundaries.
In this analogy, it becomes difficult if we were to slip back and focus on the harm that they did to us again. Having a history of negative life experience does not make it okay to harm others.
Do what you can, and do not expect immediate results. Change requires everyone’s small efforts all combined together, over long periods of time.
I encourage all of us to go to psychotherapy, to develop a deeper and more accurate understanding of ourselves, and to strive to live a healthy life. Therapy can help us use our own willpower, diligence, and kindness to refuse living a life that harms other people or ourselves. Previous unhealthy patterns can be unlearned, though it takes a lot of our time and effort.
Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort. (Fred Rogers)
The following is a link to a very good article about psychotherapy (Manotas, 2016). Psychotherapy is not only for relieving psychological symptoms, but also for developing inner discovery.
All these ideas are beautiful, but putting the ideas into action is challenging. I encourage all of us to keep trying to develop compassion for all people. Compassion can help us stay calm, make wise decisions, and enable positive changes.
Be a kind and compassionate person. This is the inner beauty that is a key factor to making a better world. (Dalai Lama)
What if we could all talk like Mr. Rogers?
Maybe we could then help persuade and change many “tough guys!”
I wish I could have watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood when I was a child. But it’s never too late! Whether you are a child, an adolescent, or an adult, I encourage you to watch videos of Mr. Rogers! The following is a link to a 10-minute video called The Best of Mr. Rogers (Best of Humans, 2017).
His legacy can truly live on if we learn to be a bit more like him… to develop and nurture a heart of gold.
The values we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love. When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe. (Fred Rogers)
When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed. (Fred Rogers)
… the most important thing is that we are able to be one to one, you and I, with each other at the moment. If we can be present to the moment, with the person that we happen to be with at the moment… that’s what it is important. (Fred Rogers)
To continue your reading and learning about this very important subject, I encourage you to have a look at this wonderful article by Sean Malone: The Power of Making Friends with Ideological Enemies (Malone, 2017).
Affirmation: I enrich my life when I strive for peace, in my community, in my home, and in my own mind.
Best of Humans. (2017, March 26). The best of Mr. Rogers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSbYQz3rluM
Malone, S. (2017, September 7). The power of making friends with ideological enemies. Retrieved from https://fee.org/articles/making-friends-from-enemies/
Manotas, M. A. (2016, February 15). You need therapy, but not for the reasons you might think. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/you-need-therapy-but-not-for-reasons-you-might-think-0215164