Love begets love. Hate begets hate. It seems everywhere we turn there is another attack on innocent lives. What isn’t being looked at is the why. And when the why is ignored, a perpetual cycle of attack and revenge ensues.
What are the first emotions that arise when we collectively experience a terrorist’s attack on other human beings? Confusion, anger, outrage, blame? Blame! Who do we get to blame for upsetting our equilibrium? When a target is identified—let the hate-cycle begin. Each party becomes the enemy and the adage “an eye for an eye” becomes justifiable. Separatism becomes the rule and division ensnares a greater blood-hungry army. Somebody must pay. But when does the army stop fighting and start forgiving? It starts with you.
The antidotes to perpetuating accusatory behaviors are compassion and ultimately, love. You may be thinking, “but I’m not going to march to the guillotine to cheer on the latest attacker’s death! But I want justice!” This would be overt collusion with the cycle of hate and death. No, you’re right, your retaliation can be much more covert and equally as damaging. People internalize their rage and confusion and the emotional ramifications can lead to anxiety, unexplored misplaced anger, and depression. These emotions can sometimes land on a stranger, further spinning the cycle.
Here are 5 ways to check your prejudices at the door and cultivate compassion:
1.) Be Selfish: This is a directive for you to look inward to identify your hate buttons. Where are you starving for love? Where do you feel undeserving, slighted, or unseen? Who are you blaming for injustices in your reality? Everyone experiences this sense of lack at some point in their life. Imagine that your best friend came to you in pain for having experienced a hateful slight on their character. What support would you offer them? Try giving yourself this same loving support. This relaxes your outward projections of frustrations and prejudices. Since there is no one else to blame, then compassion and love ensue!
2.) Get Objective: When you encounter a stranger, ask yourself, what kind of experiences has this person had on this planet? What war are they fighting? Go a step further and actually get to know them without assumptions or pre-judgments! Inquire about their history. You may be surprised how much you have in common. Dig deeper, look at ancestral history and compare it to yours. The more you humanize strangers, the more you dissolve the veil of separateness.
3.) Examine your core beliefs: Think of a time when you were slighted, put down, degraded, or marginalized. Take note. Write about it. When you take the time to heal your pain and find forgiveness, your compassion meter will rise! What is your epicenter of separatism? Does it start with something as seemingly innocent as favoring a sports team? Does that then grow into a more heavily weighted topic such a My God is better than Your God ? When you are conscious of your automatic reactions to how you treat or think of people, with practice, you become habitually present. This mindful practice will pull your out of your judgements. Your previously negative automatic thoughts or reactions can be replaced with acceptance, love and kindness. Your triggers will dampen with time as you begin to see others as more similar to you, rather than separate. This goes beyond cultivating tolerance. It breeds respect, compassion, and ultimately love.
4.) Kill them with kindness:
“Holding on to anger is like holding on to a piece of burning coal with the intent of throwing it at your enemy. Who gets burned?”
Replacing anger with kindness is a pivotal act in helping heal our fractured selves and society at large. Check in with your triggers; mindfully exercise control rather than unconsciously reacting in fear or anger. Watch your negative emotions melt and be replaced with compassion.
5.) Teach your children well: In the wake of the November attacks on Paris, a Muslim mother of a toddler, and a client of mine, was spit on while in line at Whole Foods, in a swanky Los Angels suburb. The anger-monger was another mother who also had a toddler in tow. In this scenario, you have two children who are being taught to jump on board the separatist wagon. When hate is perpetuated, it furthers the divide, making the next generation less likely to live in peace, acceptance, and love. Children come into this life with only love. Through familial and societal conditioning, they learn to treat others as they are taught.
Your unconscious and conscious beliefs have been passed down to you generationally. Your children will download the same emotional DNA and belief systems that you did - if you choose. You have the power to stop the cycle of hate, separation, and replace fears and prejudices with tolerance, acceptance, love, and curiosity.