I’ve talked about how you can touch the world around you on a day-to-day basis, how you can have a positive influence on the people you come into contact with. Have you thought about how you affect the world when a tragic event occurs?
My blog has started off being about my transformative journey while in Europe, and I’ve avoided speaking about current events. There’s been an event recently that hit closer to home, so to speak, and I thought it was time to share how I see these incidents.
This weekend, a man attacked a gay bar in Orlando, leaving many victims dead. Many of us, when we hear about such an incident, say that our prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time. Have you thought about someone else who may need a prayer? About someone else who may need your kind, loving thoughts? Have you ever had a loving thought for the man who committed this act of extreme violence?
At this point, many of you may be thinking that I’m not making any sense. “He shot and killed people from our community,” my gay readers may be saying. Yes, I am saying that after events of extreme hate we need to practice acts of extreme love, otherwise we just add to a very vicious cycle. There are a number of reasons why you should have prayers and loving thoughts for not just the victims, but for the aggressor too.
Is he really evil?
In my last blog post, I shared an example of a little boy who, having been born beautiful and perfect, grew up in an environment where emotions were not expressed in a healthy way. If you haven’t read it, or want a refresher, please read the example again, because I think it’s relevant to what I’m discussing here.
So, you can see that I don’t group people into “evil” or “good.” Inside, we are all that newborn, perfect baby, waiting to discover the world. You might be thinking, “yeah, but he should know better.” I want you to consider this: if someone grows up repeating the thought “I hate those people,” or “they are my enemy”, do you think it’s easy to break that habit?
- If you’ve worked in an office building with your desk on the 10th floor for a number of years, how long does it take you to break the habit of pushing “10” on the elevator after you’ve been moved to the 6th floor? How long before you stop reaching for the shelf on the right-hand-side of your desk before you remember that it’s now on the left?
- If you decide that you are starting a new dietary lifestyle, how long does it take you to start reaching for the salad instead of the double-chocolate cookies? How long does it take for the old habit to sneak back?
- If you decide you want to stop biting your nails, or clean up your potty mouth, or put your laundry in the basket, do you find it hard to work against your established routines?
These examples are banal compared to someone’s angry thought patterns and actions, but I hope they make you pause before you say “well, they should know better.” If it takes you real effort to break habits like the ones I’ve given above, imagine someone who has hateful thought patterns that have been deeply-rooted for 20, 30 or 40 years.
This is one reason I believe we need to have loving thoughts for someone who commits acts of extreme hate like the one from this past weekend. If we can hope that one day, even for just one moment, he breaks that thought pattern, we’ve decreased the amount of hate in the world and increased the love. Imagine how we can make the world a better place with the cumulative effect of these single-moment “breaks for love”.
(Note: In this specific incident, the aggressor is now dead, but we can hope that he can have a moment of peace in his next lifetime, or that someone like him can have that moment in this life.)
Seen from his perspective?
This may be hard for some of us, but have you tried to see the world from the aggressor’s perspective?
A person who can commit such an act has likely been seeing the world as “them versus me” for a very long time, and that is probably a very scary place to live. If you were bullied in school, you may have felt that life was the kids in the playground against you: It’s intimidating to feel like there are a dozen kids who are out to get you, can you imagine feeling that there are 7 billion people against you? Seeing the world as being full of enemies, instead of full of people to love and who love you back?
I don’t believe this man enjoyed his day-to-day life very much; there were probably opportunities for him to make himself miserable every day. Imagine a beautiful sunny day that’s just the right temperature, with a light breeze carrying the fragrance of newly-blossomed flowers in…. “oh, look, two faggots holding hands across the street. Why do they have to shove it in our faces like that?”
Or, imagine you arrive at a concert that you’ve been anticipating for a while. You sit down and the performer is about to start, so you’re getting pretty exci… “shit, one of those Muslims just sat next to me. Why do they have to come and ruin my concert?”
Now, it’s your son’s graduation and you decide to treat him to a nice dinner. You’ve heard the food is really good at this place, and you tell your son that he can eat whatev… “Jesus, now my waiter’s a Negro! I can’t even have a dinner out anymore!”
I think someone who lives life consistently hating others is living a miserable life. My examples may seem simplified, but my fictitious homophobe and racist is unable to benefit from simple pleasures, like a sunny day out or dinner with his son. If these angry thought patters are pervasive in his mind, there’s probably little he can enjoy in his day before something comes and ruins it for him. His world is probably very bleak.
That’s another reason I believe we need to be loving towards someone like this. If we can hope that, for at least one moment, he can enjoy the sun beaming down on him (instead of turning his attention to the thing he hates), he may be inspired to have a second moment of peace. Perhaps with enough moments of peace, he may finally break through the hateful thinking habits.
Continuing the hate?
When someone commits a violent act, I often hear that this person should go to hell, or he deserves to rot in jail. However, I really believe that holding onto such thoughts isn’t contributing to making the world any better, and may in fact be harmful.
“Me versus them” thoughts are not healthy and can, in extreme cases, cause someone to act out violently. Have you considered that holding angry thoughts for someone like this is a smaller-scale version of racism? I see parallels between “gays / Blacks / Jews / Protestants / Muslims should burn in hell” and “that guy who shot down the club should burn in hell.” The way I see it, the only thing that is different is that the criteria for people who should burn has changed from “all people who have skin colour X” to “all people who committed this violence on Sunday morning.” Hate is hate, no matter how broad or narrow your criteria are.
If you can bring yourself to love the person who does hurtful and hateful things, you are making positive changes for yourself and for the world. Those moments when you hold a loving thought, you’ve lifted yourself to a place of peace and you’ll be inspired to continue seeing the world differently.
Many people may, right now, be perpetuating hate towards the man who shot 50 people in a gay bar. If you can bring yourself to consciously choose a new way of thinking, you may be the first person to send unconditional love to him in his lifetime or after. One step at a time, you’re making the world a better place.
Did this blog post make you angry?
Has any of the stuff I said in this blog post made you angry? The idea of showing love to a man who has committed such an act of hate, does it bother you? Why?
The ideas I’m presenting here are quite contrary to the beliefs that many of us have grown up with, especially if we were firmly told that “right is right, and wrong is wrong”. I’m sharing these ideas because I sincerely believe it’s time to challenge our current ideas; look where society’s thought patterns are taking the world right now.
If this blog post has made you angry, I invite you to take a moment to consider the ideas I present. Maybe it’s time to start reaching for the shelf on the left now.