I am thinking of and praying for all the lives lost and families forever changed after this. This, another mass shooting, on our own soil by our own hands. This time, “the worst ever.” A gunman opened fire with assault weapons at a popular, busy nightclub in Orlando, Florida at 2:00AM. He killed more than 50 people. He took more than 50 lives. {Stay up-to-date on the latest news via the NY Times here.} Guys. Girls. Everyone… We can do better than this. We can and we will do better than this. But, the thing is – each of us actually has to do better. We have to.

This violence is senseless. 50+ lives ended in a completely terrifying way last night. And, my immediate reaction to deeply disturbing, sad and frustrating news like this is usually anger. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture, we’ll save that debate for another day, but as a society, we seem to have a gut reaction to fight fire with fire. When something threatens us or offends us, we want to respond in like. We want to hurt back. We want to show the other party that we can be just as scary or violent or hurtful. We want to show that we are stronger than them and better than them. No, scratch that – we want to show that we are not only stronger, but the strongest. Not only better, but the best. So, when I hear this news, I immediately want to go off on someone, anyone, who I feel like I can place the blame for this. I want to scream at them and make them listen and force them to understand me. I’m sure I’m not alone. Why do we want this? Really, we want this in the hope that the other party will back down, or say “Whoa, sorry, I didn’t know you were so bad ass! You’re right, I’m wrong, yes, okay, let’s do it your way. I’m listening. I understand.” We dream of that glory. I know I have – in life, at work and in personal relationships. At the root of this is that we want to win. Sometimes, we feel like we NEED to win. The falsehood and the fatal flaw here, though, is the idea that there can be only one winner. That’s the way we are brought up. That’s what our sports and competition-obsessed culture thrives on. “Second place is the first loser!” Right? Yes! Of course it’s true! Don’t get me wrong, it mostly true! It’s true in sports. And elections. And spelling bees. And awards ceremonies. And pie eating contests. But, here’s the important thing to note: the idea that there can only be one winner is not true in life. It’s critical that we make this distinction. In life, we all can and we all should win. When we lose sight of that, we get really caught up in ourselves and our views and it creates a spiral that we can get stuck in as individuals. An individual getting stuck in a spiral is a problem in itself, but the bigger problem happens when enough individuals get stuck and it sends that society or culture or world into the same spiral.  Right now, folks, we are in a spiral. Like, we are really, really in it. But, there’s good news – we can stop it. If enough individuals stop their own personal spiral, then eventually, the big, overriding, cultural spiral stops.So, our task is to stop ourselves.

 

So, try not to let yourself spiral. Question your gut reactions. Try to start responding to difficult situations, to hate, to bad news, and to opposing views with something better than more hate, more bad, or more opposing views. Root yourself in gratitude and patience and love. Root yourself in the fact that God, however you believe in Him/her/it/them, put you and me and everyone else here on this planet – we didn’t ask for it – and it is such a gift!!! Really take some time to think about that. Life is an amazing gift. Trees are beautiful, birds chirp, stars shine, and we get to love and be loved and eat delicious food and communicate and laugh and listen to music and make art and take trips and just live in all of that beauty. We all have the right to revel in and enjoy that. We all have the right to win by having the opportunity to be here. Yes, even the people who disagree with you. Even the people who have awful thoughts and do bad things (Then, sometimes they commit crimes and give up their right to be a functioning member of society, but still!) Listen to the person who has opposing views. Try to understand. Show compassion, and I mean true compassion, not passive aggressive, holier than thou “Oh, I feel bad for them” compassion. Try to see yourself and your views from their eyes. Be critical of your own reactions and your own views, but be patient with yourself at the same time. None of us is perfect. Our views, beliefs and lives are fluid and ever-changing…and thank God for that.

 

“Only love can overcome hate.” “Love conquers all.” “All you need is love.” We say these things all the time, but do we live it? Truly ask yourself. Check yourself. Try. Try again. Try harder.

 

When we begin to live in this space of understanding, patience, love and gratitude, we can stop the spiral and we will all prosper. Together.

 

I am doing my best every day to respond to horrific news, and opposing views with patience, understanding, openness and love. From things as small as someone driving in a way I disagree with, to as big as someone having a different views on war than I do – I am trying to understand rather than respond with anger. I’m hopeful that as more of us do this, we will overcome the epidemic of senseless violence. Please do more than just #prayfororlando or #prayforparis or #prayforsanbernardino. Please make sure you vote for political candidates that advocate diplomacy, mental health management, an approach to problem solving that includes a default reaction of taking the time to understand, practicing humility and admitting faults and mistakes. Don’t vote for candidates whose default reaction includes blaming, threatening, manipulating and advocating more violence. Let’s not fight fire with fire. Let’s not fight guns with more guns. Let’s respond in love, trust in God and the universe, and be patient with ourselves and others.

 

 

/endrant

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