It appears that everyone is full of anger these days. There have been some horrible things taking place around the world and many feel that they have lost control over their lives. Protests, violence and shouting obscenities is the way people choose to respond…and there’s the key to changing things for the better…how you and I choose to respond.
Before moving into how to make positive changes it’s important to understand how our brain works. Every time we repeat an action we create a deeper connection in our brain that becomes like a well-traveled path. It becomes easier and easier to follow that path as an automatic reflex action based on the stimuli. For instance, when you want something sweet to eat you probably have a favorite go-to item. It may be chocolate, cookies or cake, the actual item isn’t important right now; it’s just so you can understand we all have our “go-to” items when we have cravings.
The same thing happens in how we react or respond to life events and challenges to our beliefs. We have learned them over time based on we were raised along with all the other things we have taken in from television, movies, songs, the Internet, friends and people we admired. All of them have an influence on us, like it or not. In fact, have you ever said something or did something and instantly it came to your mind that you are exactly like your mom or dad? You said or did the same thing they used to do, in the same tone or manner, and you realized the shocking truth that you are just like them? Most, if not all, of us have had that experience.
The anger we see today has a lot to do with how people have been trained (or influenced) in how to react to challenges to their beliefs and principles. Why do you think they are “organizers” heading up a lot of the things we see on the news? Their goal is to train people on how to react and respond to things that go against their beliefs and principles. Hmmmmm…does the media have beliefs or goals they want to achieve? Could they, would they really present a slanted view in order to “organize” or influence the response or reaction people choose to have to events? Of course they do!
If we want to make things better by working towards solutions instead of encouraging division and anger there are a few things we can do.
1. Anytime we read, hear or see a report telling us of an event let’s pause before we react and ask, “Is this true? Do I, and the source, have all the facts?” A friend of mine shared a great piece of wisdom with me. He said, “There’s usually two sides to every story, and somewhere in between is where you find the truth.” That’s why investigators like to interview as many witnesses as possible. By researching all the accounts you have a better chance of discovering the truth.
2. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We can see actions but we cannot see motives. People are quick to put a label on someone in anger without ever knowing the person. In the last few years in the United States it has become common for one to instantly be called a bigot, racist or a _________phobe (fill in the blank with whatever of the numerous labels being used) simple because they do not agree with someone else’s belief or principle. I do not know your heart, beliefs or life so for me to assume you have a true hatred for someone without getting to know you is simply wrong. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to you so please give them the same respect.
3. Think before you act or speak out of anger in response to something. When someone has a belief, opinion or principle that does not align with yours that does not automatically mean they hate you, your family your culture, your religion or whatever. I have friends from different parts of the world, gay, straight, married, single, divorced, various religious beliefs, no religious beliefs, all different ages and cultures. We do not agree on everything and that’s fine. I’ve learned a lot from them and I value their friendship. What a boring life it would be if we all thought the same, looked the same, acted the same, etc. We get along just fine and none of us are pushing or forcing the other to change and become something else.
Don’t assume a person is bad or hateful simply because of some outward appearance or because they don’t look, think or act like you.
We don’t get to choose the color of our skin, where we are born, how we are raised or any other of a number of things. There are a lot of things I cannot change or have control over. I am not perfect, I struggle at times with the things I’ve shared above. I can choose how I react to people and events around me. I encourage you to help make things better by choosing to respond with respect, civility and compassion instead of anger.
We may not be able to change the world overnight but we can be a positive example and influence where we live and hopefully make it a better place one act of compassion at a time.