I’m struggling to process the events of this weekend. 50 more people killed while trying to live their lives. My heart goes out to the victims, their friends and family, their community. And to all the victims of violence, for any “reason,” in the name of any cause. Perhaps those more erudite than I can see a formal, tangible way to end the needless, senseless violence. But from my point of view, it has to start with us as individuals. It is so easy to be afraid of people, to even hate people, who are not like yourself. It is so easy to fear or be confused by and even hate ideas you don’t understand or agree with. But hate only breeds more hate. To quote Yoda,
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
The Jedi Master was right. Suffering is the only outcome of hate. Fear, however, can be used in productive ways. But we’re fearing the wrong things. We need to fear what becomes of us when our response to everything is hatred and violence. We need to fear the people who stoke the flames of hate and encourage people to violence. Now comes the hard part. We can’t let these fears paralyze us. We cannot be afraid of fear. We need to take these fears and harness them into action. Every day, every hour, every minute, we must be vigilant and not let our fear overwhelm us and drive us into decisions and actions that will only create more anger and violence.
Every day, every hour, every minute, we must strive for compassion and understanding. If someone looks different than you, believes differently than you, thinks differently than you, this does not mean they are a target for fear, anger, and hate. It means you both have an opportunity to try to understand the other, to feel compassion for the other. They don’t live their lives as you do and that is absolutely ok. If we were all the same, there would be no new inventions, no new ideas, no new ways to solve problems. We all need each other. We all stand together or we all fall apart.
So I ask of you, dear readers, to think of compassion and understanding when you are faced with a person different than you. Because, I will let you in on a little secret, we’re not all that different. We all want what’s best for us and our families, we want to keep our families safe from harm, with food on the table, shelter to protect us, and hopefully some happiness. We just achieve those things in different ways. Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.
Please, before it all descends into chaos and violence, look fear in the eye and let it know that you refuse to allow it turn into anger and hate. That instead you will use that fear to empower you to make positive change, to find understanding, and to feel compassion. Every day, every hour, every minute.