I am sure everyone reading this can agree on one thing, that the violence and hate needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. I am talking about the daily violence and hatred that is going on around the world. The fire of violence is consuming us, and it seems to be a raging fire. The flames are being fanned every day on TV, in the news, on social media, on talk radio, at the dinner tables, and in the offices down the street.
The violence is committed in the name of justice, in the name of an ideology, in the name of enforcement or for revenge or to right a wrong. I am peaceful man and I will confess it hurts my heart to see such death and hated and so much innocent blood being shed for…what?
As novelist and humanitarian Wendall Berry once said, “Violence breeds violence. Acts of violence committed in justice or in affirmation of rights or in defense of peace do not end violence. They prepare and justify its continuation.”
So what can we do to stop it? You are just one person right? What can one person do? I think there are simple things we can all do to help stop it.
- Start with you. As the old song said: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” If there is to be peace, then you need to start with you by not supporting, condoning, endorsing violence in any way. I see messages on social media who say “Well I am glad they got justice. They deserved it!” They are endorsing the murder of another human being for justice. This is not justice, it just murder. So even if you don’t commit violence yourself, don’t be the one who feeds the beast in the form of encouragement. Don’t support this kind of behavior anywhere. Make a daily commitment (not just lip service) to being kind and loving to everyone you meet and interact with. Show others in the world that kindness comes on all colors shapes and sizes. It is not going to be easy – nothing worthwhile ever is – and you are going to have days when you are tired and fail. But the next day, get dust yourself off and try again.
- Start with your family. Teach your children to be kind, to be aware of other people feelings, to give back and to take care of others. Teach them empathy and caring and make it one of your family values. The way to change a culture is first and foremost at home first. Teach them to respect all people or all races creeds and colors. As a parent, show them through your actions how to be a kind soul. Don’t allow them to talk bad about others or to express hate. Let them know that is not how kind people act and that it is not acceptable behavior. As Nelson Mandela once said “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for loves comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”
- Start with your neighborhood. Do you know your neighbors? Reach out to them and get to know them. Be bold and knock on their door and say hi. Tell them as neighbors you need to stick together. Have a block party and get to know one another. Let them know you have their back. Take initiative and form a community association. Talk to each other. Have a community of connection and kindness. Our nation is a nation, but it is really made up of one neighborhood, and many neighborhoods make up a town, and many towns make up a state. Many states create a nation. You can’t change a nation but you can change your little pocket of the world, by creating and spreading peace and kindness in your neighborhood.
- Start to volunteer. There are lots or people in the world that need care and help. When someone volunteers their time and energy to help someone else, hearts are healed, and hatred dissipates. It’s hard to hate when you see people cares about you. I have done volunteer work with children, and I have seen the transformative power of what love can do to heal.
- Start to listen. We need to stop being so polarized – no one wants to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. In Washington DC, politicians just don’t listen to anyone on the other side of the aisle. We must start listening to other people with an open mind and trying to understand their world, their perspective. As Tennessee Williams once said, “I think hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding.”
I am asking you today in reading this to commit to being a bright and shining well of peace, good will and kindness. Let the cool and deep water of that well extinguish the flames of violence and hate.