I originally wrote this on November 15, 2015, the day after there had been a terrorist attack in Paris. There have been other similar attacks in France and elsewhere in the world since the time I originally wrote this and a few days ago we marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It is a sad and unfortunate reality that this piece is consistently relevant because we are either experiencing a horrific tragedy or marking the anniversary of one from very recent history. My question remains the same as it did almost a year ago…
Can we as a society have compassion for those who commit heinous crimes against humanity? Can we find a way to love and forgive them? Can we see the anguish, the pain and the despair that people are experiencing to get them to the point of such extreme violence? Can we have compassion and love for the leaders of these groups, gangs and organizations who themselves are so clearly lost and hurting and possibly suffering from mental illness? Interestingly, they have been able to succeed where the rest of us have fallen short – in providing a sense of purpose and belonging to their lost soldiers in their time of need. We as a society are failing but we can learn to do better.
Terrorists and gang-bangers are frequently not forced into joining the organizations that have recruited them. In many cases, the group gives them the acceptance and hope that we as a society did not. So grateful are these desperate outcasts that they show their loyalty literally with their very own lives – brainwashed or not, they somehow overcome that basic human instinct to live and are willing to die for their cause. Do we sincerely believe that so many young people do it for the promise of martyrdom and/or being immortalized on airbrushed t-shirts — for the after-life? Or is it more comprehensible to imagine that because one’s worth may have been devalued since childhood that the alternative of death is somehow more attractive than the pain of continually attempting and failing to live within the confines of a cruel, claustrophobic and judgmental box? We are letting these men and women down long before they have picked up guns, have strapped on vests or have detonated bombs but we can learn to try harder.
Are we examining and reporting on patterns beyond race and religion which are two of the most obvious labels used to highlight differences and encourage separation? Are we looking at the impact that repeated propaganda from a wealthy Western myopic perspective has on fragile minds or poverty-stricken bodies? Are we investigating the effects that onerous standardized tests, a “one size fits all” academic model and the removal of arts programs from schools have on creative minds or kinesthetic learners? Surely we see patterns of “getting into trouble” and criminal records but are we digging into the root cause of those infractions? We are failing to recognize the signs but we can learn to see them.
There has been a lot of press in the past few years about bullying and it is a beautiful thing that we are offering assistance to the victims but is there any support for the bullies? Is there any consideration for what makes people want to bring harm to another? I believe that those of us who are hurting the most are the ones that cause the most harm. We are quick to dispense justice and punishment but are we offering viable services for real healing and growth equally as swiftly? We are failing to offer love, support, comfort and wisdom to those who are in the most pain but we can learn to give.
We have made great strides as a society in the health field which includes mental health but are we utilizing our learnings to do anything more than to peddle meds, apply labels and to further ostracize our brothers, sisters and our very own children? How many people have to get assigned labels and put outside the box before we recognize that it is not the people who are broken but it is the box into which we keep trying to cram everyone that is broken? How many more terrorist attacks, mass murders, homicides, double-homicides, murder-suicides, suicides, rapes, violent crimes and drug overdoses have to happen before we can look at our brothers and sisters, the very ones who may or may not yet have been labeled as “bad, stupid, mentally ill, delinquent, criminal, dangerous” etc., with the love and compassion they so desperately need and not with fear and hate? We have failed to hear their pleas for help when they said they cannot or do not fit into the box but we can learn to listen.
The phrase “charity begins at home” has been used throughout history in a myriad of ways. I used to think it meant that we should take care of our own houses/families/cities before trying to take care of others. I now interpret this passage to say that we must give first to ourselves before we can give to another for the simple reason that we cannot give to another that which we do not possess ourselves. It is impossible for me to offer love, forgiveness, compassion and kindness to anyone if I have not given those things to myself first. I am suggesting that in order to heal the hurt out in the world, we must first heal the hurt within ourselves. We are failing them because we are failing ourselves but we can all learn to love.
Evolution Revolution Social Experiment: Reverse the Conditioning
Part A: Charity Begins at Home
- We unconsciously use self-judgment as the measuring stick for all others and in turn have difficulties seeing the light within our brothers and sisters.
- We spend more time beautifying our outer-selves than we spend on healing our inner-selves.
Calculate the average amount of time you spend daily on hair, make-up, clothes and anything having to do with outward appearances. Once you have the number, I’d like you to reduce it by a quarter (or by half for those of you who are bold). For example, if you calculate that you spend one hour per day getting dressed then your allotted time is 15 minutes. I’d like to challenge you to now spend 15 minutes of your preparation time on breathing and giving YOURSELF acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and loving kindness. (Note: This means accepting and forgiving even the voice that judges your judgment). You then have the rest of the time to beautify your outer-self.
The beauty and light of all that is around us reveal themselves when we connect with our own true beauty: our inner light. If we heal/beautify our inner-selves by practicing self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, self-compassion and self-love daily, then we can provide those things to all of our brothers and sisters and we can reverse the conditioning that has us judge and fear each other and begin to heal the hurt in the world.
 Guided meditation apps can be a great support and are readily available in the app store. Additionally, I outline steps for self-healing in my post “Powerful Victim.”