I have vowed to stay away from politics in my blog, but let me just say that recent events have created an atmosphere of fear and anxiety as we enter 2017. Fear makes us forget that we are, at heart, compassionate human beings and creates an “us” versus “them” view of the world. In reality, there is only “us.”
The Dali Lama recently stated that fear makes us act as if we are drunk. We do and say things we would not normally do. However, I am seeing some hopeful signs that we are sobering up. I was particularly moved by a recent speech by Canadian Prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to the UN General Assembly. In it, he advised us to choose hope over fear, diversity over division. “Fear has never created a single job or fed a single family.”
The only thing that neutralizes fear is love. Every spiritual tradition has told us so, and I believe it. Yes, there are haters out there, but most of us want to be kind. Sometimes fear gets in the way, and we become anxious. For me, the best way to counteract anxiety is to do something nice for someone else. Give it a try. You might be surprised by the effect a simple smile or compliment has on someone else, and how good you feel afterward.
The choices I make, and the things I say and do (or don’t say and do) have an impact on my life and the lives of others, and so do yours. For myself, I’ve made a resolution to be kinder and more compassionate in 2017. I knew I needed something to keep me on track. So, after careful consideration, I came up with the following to-do list. There’s nothing new here, just gentle reminders of things I know but sometimes forget. Maybe you forget sometimes, too. If these suggestions strike a chord, use them and share with others. Together, we can make the world a kinder, more hopeful place.
- Do no harm—Remember the golden rule; treat others as you would like to be treated. No exceptions, including planet earth and ALL the creatures living on it.
- Practice kindness—An act of kindness has the ability to shift someone’s bad day into a better one. Why not be that change? Research tells us that we become happier by making other people happier.
- Remember, you can’t tell a book by its cover—It’s hard to look past appearances and our own prejudices. Make the effort. The book you almost rejected just might be a real page turner. I was so intent on hanging out with the “right people” in college that I almost missed a girl who became my lifelong friend.
- Support organizations that do good work—You can’t support every organization. Support the ones that speak to you. The homeless? Global warming? Human Rights? No one can do it all, but everyone can do something.
- Be a helper, volunteer—This is a natural follow-up to number four. “One of the greatest ironies of life is this: he or she who serves almost always benefits more than he who is served.” (Gordon Hinkle) Discover five surprising benefits of volunteering.
- Don’t be against anything; be for something—When asked why she never participated in anti-war demonstrations, Mother Teresa replied, “I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
- Always do your best—”Your best is going to change from moment to moment…it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.” (Don Miguel Ruiz)
- Be an active listener—Listening is different from hearing. Active listening requires that the listener keep an open mind, refrain from judgement and be attentive. The ability to listen to what another person is saying is essential to working through conflict. If I am formulating my response before the other person has finished, I am not actively listening.
- Don’t make assumptions—We’ve all done it. When we wrongly assume another person’s motivation, problems ensue. Wars have been started by assumptions that were not factual. Number nine can often be avoided by following number eight—are you listening?
- If you can’t say nothing nice, don’t say nothing at all—Arguably the most famous line from Disney’s Bambi, Thumper’s mother was right. The negative things we say about others are like boomerangs bringing negativity back into our own lives. It’s my job to keep my words positive. A good rule is to ask is, “Will my words hurt someone?” Are they beneficial? Once spoken, a word can never be taken back. This refers to social media as well as the spoken word. Refraining from negative comments is one way to practice rule #2—be kind. Maybe that’s all we really need to remember.