A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?

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Kindness Anyway

It’s not always easy to be kind.  You can always find rude and nasty people if you look hard enough (sometimes it’s too easy to find them).  Kindness is more than doing a good deed now and again, but it does start that way.  As I was contemplating the darker side of kindness, if you will, I ran across this poem:

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Kent M. Keith

It’s not easy to be ourselves when the world seems out to get us and no one else.  It’s not easy to show kindness in the face of hatred.  Being the bigger person takes effort.  But the only way the world will change is one act of kindness at a time.  This is one of the lessons one of my heroes, Nelson Mandela, learned while he was imprisoned.  He learned that what got him into the situation he was in was certainly not going to be what got him out of it; he had to change.  And change he did.

We’ve each got a similar choice to make.  No we may not be in a physical prison, but we too have to realize that what got us into the not so good places we can find ourselves in is not what will get us out.  Let’s change the world one kindness at a time.

Together Forever

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
A. A. Milne

To celebrate Milne’s birth I thought we’d hear a bit of his wisdom, and although it’s not Pooh wisdom, it’s something to learn from all the same.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t build relationships often in which we feel this way.  I know many people go into relationships hoping for a few good years, and maybe some kids.  But how many of us go into a relationship hoping we can stay with them until we die?  In some ways it’s understandable since we are in a period of time with such change and little permanence.  We see jobs come and go, money flow in and out, technology and society change quickly, just to name a few.

But when it comes down to it that’s a piss-poor way to live.

I know that life is temporary and we need to live each day to the fullest.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have long, satisfying relationships.  In fact, we seem to spend more time ruining relationships than truly trying to make them work.  So it’s no wonder that our relationships don’t last.  Not everyone divorces but there’s certainly a serious lack of life and passion after being together for a long time, mostly because they haven’t been proactive about cultivating a relationship like Milne speaks of.

But it’s something you can change if you choose to.  You can try new things, go on dates, find more things to enjoy together, see a counselor or coach to work out your issues so you can get back to loving, and choose to let go of all the baggage you’ve carried that has come between you.

This week I encourage you to see each day as one of those days leading up to that 100 years and make it a great one.  It won’t be perfect, but if you put a little effort into it it can be a lot better than all the previous days you regret.  What will you do to make today a good day?

Lessons of Kindness

Kids can teach us many lessons.  We just have to be open to those lessons and willing to accept wisdom from those who have less experience and fewer years than we do.  One of the biggest lessons we can learn from kids is the lesson of kindness to our fellow man.  Maybe you’ve had a random kid say hi to you in a store, or at a restaurant, or want to tell you all about the special thing that happened to them that day.  It’s simply because they want to share the love.  They want you to be as blessed as they feel.  When we choose to ignore their efforts or treat them as less than significant, we slowly crush them.  It’s no wonder that we can become boring people with little passion.

What can we do to fix that?  We can choose to look for the little, special blessings in life.  We can choose to look for the little gifts and blessings that come our way and see them as that, not just as part of our due for life.  For example, being thrilled over the perfect parking spot, your partner wanting a date night, your kids wanting to read a story, your boss wanting to talk a project concept over with you, the free coffee in the mornings, or the joyful greeting your pet gives you each day.

When you choose to see those special moments as the opportunities to let kindness into your life, not only do you present hope for the next generation, you allow hope the opportunity to take root in your life as well.  Today I invite you to open your arms to the softer side of life and see what you’re missing.  Follow your kids around for a day, try to see the world as they see it, let them tell you their stories and open your mind to the possibility that there’s lots more to life than you first imagined.