As citizens and human beings, one of our fundamental responsibilities is to help create a country we are proud to leave our children, their children and their children. That is why, I am disappointed many of my fellow citizens seem to have fallen victim to apathy and cynicism as evidenced by the growing prevalence of, “I am not political,” “My vote does not matter,” “Politicians are thieves and liars,” “Nothing will ever change,” and “I have no real power to effect positive difference.”
Though I certainly do not have all the answers to fix what seems broken about our government, I do know beyond doubt we, her citizens, are not powerless. We are millions strong, who with swift and decisive action can direct the course of our nation. A task we must now undertake with sincere and unified determination.
Therefore, you and I as citizens have the responsibility to be political. To do everything within our power to make certain we do not elect bullies, liars, thieves, and casters of blame. We must reject those who shun personal responsibility, ego-box for sport, and avoid coming to the table with feasible solutions to the issues we face. We must refuse to side with anyone who is comfortable with Washington’s misuse of power, dissention, and its reward of rulers.
Albert Einstein said, “The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.”
By moving away from electing politicians who belong to one or two parties to choosing servant-leaders who work for “We the People,” we will increase the pool of qualified candidates, those who have the intelligence and heart to design a new system in which compromise and efficiency bring about lasting positive change. A diverse and dedicated collection of multi-experienced people of integrity is our best hope to end business as usual in Washington.
I don’t think for one moment this servant-leader approach is naïve, impossible, and will never happen. We most admire men and women who strive to make the world a better place by adhering to the values of principled character. And, we love a good challenge.
Sure, we can continue the chaos and dysfunction by stroking the hubris of those who want to rule. However, the undeniable truth is, in order to be an outstanding nation we must value being a nation governed by outstanding people; those who truly desire to serve by voluntarily using heart to keep their egotism in check. We must vote them into office.
It has been hard watching our beloved Celine Dion suffer over the death of her husband of 21 years, Rene Angelil, followed two days later by the death of her brother Daniel Dion. We empathize with her loss because we too have experienced the death of loved ones. Many of us don’t think of preparing to pass away, but we should. Rene Angelil did prepare, leaving Celine and the children with all his affairs in order as a final act of love for them.
While growing up, a friend of mine was used as a punching bag by his father. He was the daily target of misplaced rage, disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. Today my friend is a loving, peaceful and thoughtful father. He chose to break the cycle of abuse by assuming responsibility for dealing with his emotional wounds so he would not take his baggage out on himself, other people or living things.
My friend knew he had to behave better so he made the deliberate choice not to be like his father. He realized no amount of fighting back or screaming at his father changed the man or ever got him to own up to his negative and physically abusive behavior. The only option my friend had was to do better because he knew abuse is never love.
If you are currently in an abusive situation, you must set a boundary with those people who hurt you. Let go of the fantasy of how you think someone can be and accept their current behavior as proof of who they are.
No matter how much you think someone should know better than to abuse others, accept knowing better with our head and knowing better with our heart, so we actually do better, are two different things. Accept the fact that unless someone is actively working to heal from their past pain, he or she unconsciously passes their wounding onto others. Those people who hurt others are clueless how to make positive changes to themselves to better their lives. So you must be the one who chooses to take responsibility for yourself, by remaining emotionally awake to respect yourself and walk away, if necessary.
No matter how your heart might long for the other person to know better, he or she will not have a clue about their negative behavior until they choose to look at themselves with the honesty of their own heart. Love you by protecting yourself from abuse. Because you know better you must choose to do better than allow yourself to be mistreated, because mistreatment is never love.
I’ve learned being happy is a choice. Of course we will not have a continuous sense of well-being and contentment. But, overall the quality of life, our level of fulfillment and peace, is a choice we make, moment by moment, in how we deal most directly with the responsibilities that come with being an adult.
The human body has three primary layers of skin. Beneath the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, that provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin color, we’re basically the same. So, I believe as human beings who’ve been to the moon, cured diseases, shot a telescope into outer space, we are perfectly capable of collectively moving ourselves forward on the emotional evolutionary scale by honestly admitting we do not have a race, homophobia, or gender relations problem. We own up to the fact we have a respect problem.
We do not respect one another’s differences. We do not respect one another’s sameness. We do not have compassion for one another’s challenges. We do not listen to one another to understand each other. We do not learn about other cultures and religions, about the biological causes of sexual orientation and gender dysphoria, so we can better relate to one another in intelligent and informed ways. We do not learn about the endless things that make us, other people, and the world tick. We do not press pass the boundaries of our comfort zone.
We are not critically looking at the limiting, judgmental beliefs we are taught about one another that we are choosing to perpetuate. We are not assuming responsibility for the different choices we can now make to create the world we say we want.
We’re talking a good game about our faith and religious beliefs while judging one another in the name of God and looking for someone else to lead the way to peace on earth. But, leading the way, to be responsible for our choices, is exactly what walking a spiritual path or following a religious faith is all about. If we are truly a world of believers in a power greater than ourselves, the time has come for us to walk our talk and choose to treat other people as we want to be treated.
I am white but I did not choose my color. You may be black or brown but you did not choose your color. I am gay but I did not choose my sexual orientation. Most likely you are straight but you did not choose your sexual orientation either.
I was born in the U.S. to an unwed teenage mother but I did not choose my mother or my birth country. You may have been born in a different country but you did not choose your birth country either. I was adopted. Maybe you were too.
I was raised Christian. You may have been raised Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or Atheist. Growing up I had friends from different ethnic groups. Maybe you were raised to accept others too. I was encouraged to learn and to ask questions about the world. You may have been taught to be inquisitive too. Getting a good formal education, exposing myself to difference to find sameness was encouraged in my home. Possibly these were encourage in your home too.
Children do not enter the world as harbingers of hate, prejudice and ignorance. When a child lacks healthy exposure to a variety of people and experiences, to an education which excites the imagination, to a family unit and friends where he feels like an important part, to values that result in positive behavior, he will look for somewhere to belong. Without the skill of discernment any port becomes a refuge from the storm of an abused, uninteresting, tough, and neglected life. Children are sponges soaking up what is around them. They either absorb love, acceptance, and a sense of belongingness or they feel abandoned, unworthy, and unimportant.
If we do not grow up being exposed to the vast wonders of the world and to the beautiful tapestry of our different human being’s colors, beliefs, cultures, and customs we only trust what we’ve been allowed to see. If we do not grow up encouraged to associate with people of other religions, other races, other socio-economic groups, as adults we tend to associate with those people who look like us, believe what we believe, and interact with those who have the same standard of living we do.
We must be taught to value others, to have compassion, to be respectful, helpful, and kind. We cannot find sameness in our differences if we’re being taught to judge, to elevate ourselves above others, to fear difference, to disrespect who other people are, and to devalue what they care for.
White people who hate and judge are ignorant. They are run by a fear-based, narrow minded, and victimized view of the world. Black and brown people who hate are no different.
Regardless of skin color people who chose to participate in animosity and divisiveness are ignorant. Their ignorance is a result of refusing to open their eyes and hearts to anything other than their narrow and biased point of view. Those with a closed heart and judging minds will always be part of the problem while deluding themselves into thinking they are being the solution. The solution they see is one-sided, based only upon what they know and believe. But, narrow-minded prevents a big picture view.
All of this is to say prejudice, hate, homophobia, xenophobia are learned behaviors. To move our collective emotional evolution forward, to have our heart be an equal partner with our technological growth, we must teach ourselves and our children to love. I know this sounds like a spiritual guru’s pat answer. But only because it is the right answer; one enlightened teachers have been sharing with the world for millennia. But now, to walk the talk, we must listen.
Hate and prejudice will only be solved by elevating the emotional consciousness of the planet. So yes, this is a spiritual responsibility but one that has been supported by all the emotionally conscious heroes among us. Albert Einstein wisely said, “Problems cannot be solved with the same level of awareness that created them.”
That means discernment is different than suspicion. Self-protection is different than instigating violence. And increasing exposure to the best of what different cultures, genders, ages, and races has to offer, is setting children up for an open-minded and open-hearted attitude about those who are different.
Along with instruction on how to protect themselves, how to stand up for what’s right, we need to give children tools to do so in a peaceful and productive manner. We must show them how to deal with anger in constructive ways and how to turn off hate-filled propaganda. We can only teach what we know and practice.
We are human beings who must learn to live together as one big, often dysfunctional, but always respectful and non-violent family. Devoted to the heart-evolving path of finding sameness in our difference.
Do you dream? Do you dream big? Do your dreams come true? Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it you can do it.” The first step to creating the life you want is to dream, to imagine yourself doing great things, receiving great things, creating solid and rewarding relationships, and having the right occupation. Step two is to be flexible in how or when your dream comes true.
After two months at a job selling advertising for a small, family-owned newspaper, I was fired. There was no warning. There was no indication my performance was less than acceptable. In fact, I had received praise for increasing ad revenue. It did not make sense to be abruptly terminated. Regardless of how much I wanted to identify the reason, no one in the company returned my calls. I became angry and depressed. Without accepting the reality that sometimes things happen with no logical explanation, I was stuck, unable to move on. For the next few months I did little to find a new job.
Many years ago I dated an alcoholic. I did not recognize the condition in the beginning, but over time it became clear as the incidents of intoxication began to add up. After each occurrence there was an apology, a request for forgiveness, and a promise it would not happen again. No matter how much I wanted the drinking to stop, it did not. No matter how much I prayed for follow-through on the promise to seek help, there was none. I chose to believe what was promised, rather than accepting the repeated actions as proof of what was actually true. The result is I stayed in the abusive relationship far too long.
A family I am acquainted with lost a child to a tragic accident. Before the accident, the father was a pillar of strength. He was also kind, compassionate, and had a positive outlook on life. Over the next few years he sank deeper into depression, clinging to what he thought should, would or could have been. Blame was cast, lawsuits were filed and a focus on revenge erased the memories of his once joyful life. Without the ability to forgive and deal with the tragedy, he was not able to be thankful for the joy life still held for him. He died a frail and bitter man unable to move on.
How much precious time do we waste wanting other people or situations to be different from how they are? Positive change begins by honestly looking at how unreasonable it is to suffer under the false impression we have the power to control or manipulate other people or the negative, frustrating, inconvenient or heartbreaking situations we encounter in life.
Maybe someone leaves us for another or just ends the relationship. We have two choices. We can be angry, dwelling on what we think should be, but isn’t. Or we can mend our heart by learning from the experience, feeling our sadness and picking ourselves up to move on. We choose to exchange a fantasy of the past and what “should be” for the opportunity to create a better “what is” reality in the present. This same formula works with whatever situations life throws at us.
Traffic jams and other delays are a frequent part of life. We do not receive the job we badly want and need. We realize we are in relationship with an abuser. We become conscious we are the one with a problem. The people and pets we love are sometimes taken away from us through illnesses or tragic accidents.
Relationships end. Our affection for another is not reciprocated. We slip and break an ankle. Our car is damaged by a hit-and-run driver. We lose our wallet or keys or our purse is stolen. Our luggage becomes lost or our flight is delayed or cancelled. We are diagnosed with cancer. Our parents become ill or their behavior radically changes. Someone is rude to us.
No amount of anger, yelling, worry, or desire for revenge changes what is real in the moment at hand. Only by accepting the present circumstance for what it is, rather than what we think it should, would, or could be, do we help ease the stress and upset that comes from the misconception we can control or change people and the uncontrollable and unchangeable situations of life.
When something happens in life that upsets your plans, take a deep breath. Slow down. Count to five. Relax into the truth that only by accepting what is real in the present can you take the necessary action to leave an abusive relationship. Or rebound from losing a job. Or seek help for an addiction. Or deal with an illness. Or appropriately honor the memory of a loved one.
Change begins when you accept what is, so you can begin to create what you want to be.
It’s a brand new year with endless possibilities for you to accomplish lots of physical, emotional, financial, behavioral and relationship goals. But to reach your goals, you first have to set them by taking time to do the soul searching necessary to determine exactly what you want to accomplish and what changes you want to make in yourself in the coming year.
We live in a world where it would be easy to hate those who hate. Yet any of us who have been on the receiving end of hate know dishing out what we get is not the behavior that creates our best life. Growing up I was hated by many people for being gay. This caused a deep, painful wounding within me. Today, I am still disliked by those who do not care to look beyond labels to find out who I am inside. We now have evidence of biological causes as science is helping us learn acceptance of sexual orientation difference. And, there are still those who react to my being gay with judgment and hate.
For many people it is easier to blindly follow what they are taught to believe by religion or family bias rather than consider the merit of scientific discovery and the advice we now receive from modern religious scholars to keep in mind the ancient societies in which these beliefs were created. Long ago I let go of the idea I can fight fire with fire and not expect to get burned. Therefore, I don’t hate the haters and I no longer allow the judgment of others to impact how I choose to view myself. I no longer loath myself for being born the way I am. I no longer wish I had been born different or feel I have to be someone other than who I am comfortable being just to appease others. Staying true to who I am in the midst of hate, judgment and attempts to change me, grew my self-respect and empathy because with a little self-assessment we realize each of us has, at one time or another, experienced ridicule for being “different.” That is reason enough for compassion.
Today, I know in my heart being gay is okay with the God of my belief, who is and will always be, love. I am also confident being judgmental, hateful and fearful is not okay with God. While I cannot stop people from hating me or anyone else for that matter, I can work hard each day to be kind, compassionate, accepting and forgiving. I am not perfect but I am devoted to living my best life because I am confident God cares more about me striving to be a person of good, respectful character than my being with Barbara instead of Bruce, Billy or Brian.
The truth is not everyone will like you. Some may even judge and hate you for being who you are. But if you respect yourself and you stay respectful of others, that is much more important than being liked. Refuse to fight fire with fire. Don’t hate those who hate.