What If We Didn’t Close Down When Bad Things Happened?

Recent global events have stirred an emotional storm in many people. Government officials are closing their borders and promising retaliation. People on social media are shouting their opinions at one another. The great suffering that comes after the loss of human life has created a strong reaction. We feel angry and afraid, vulnerable and violated. Unfortunately when we feel these things we tend to close ourselves off to the world. It’s personal and we’re under attack…

We get defensive and act out, finding ourselves quick to judge and condemn. Sometimes we condemn entire cultures without any real knowledge or connection to these groups. Oddly, this is exactly what tyrants hope that we will do in the face of adversity. Their goal is to increase their power and to control as many people as possible. They want to increase control over those who agree with them and those who oppose them. Their opponent’s wrath only strengthens the resolve of their loyal followers. The tyrant can quickly point out that the enemy is as heartless and ruthless as they said they were.

Those in the middle who have not decided where they fit in such a conflict find themselves adrift, wondering if there is any safe harbor or sanity on either side. If they are born into the society of the tyrant, they may be opposed to the tyrant’s actions and willing to resist. Yet if the opposition proves to be as aggressive as the tyrant, they may feel hopeless to resist and ultimately join the tyrant’s cause in order to protect themselves. What choice do they have?

We have a different choice when we are under attack. Whether as individuals or as a society, we can choose to reject the behavior of the tyrant, while maintaining an open heart. We don’t need to close down and build resentment. We can choose to reach a new level of resolve in our compassion for ourselves and others. We can try to understand the aggressor and have compassion for the people who may be caught in the tyrant’s propaganda. Driven by fear and anger, we have all done terrible things at some point in our lives.

We can connect to this and cross the gap of fear and anger with tolerance. We’re not suggesting we become martyrs and helpless victims. We have every right to do whatever we can to protect ourselves in the future and care for those who have been affected. However, meeting anger and fear with anger and fear doesn’t work. Our best hope for peace is to diffuse the tyrant’s propaganda by showing the followers that the enemy does not operate from a place of intolerance and prejudice. That we are not at war with them and we will not close ourselves down in the face of adversity.

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