Sometimes we’re convinced our way is the only way. Life presents big questions, and most of us will have to grapple with them at some time or another if we want to be at peace. Some people are born into families where beliefs are passed down, but even in those cases, most people approach near adulthood, and want to examine their own feelings and ideas about things.
Of course, none of us will have concrete answers about most of this stuff until we exhale for the final time. But the need to organize this world so that it makes sense, so that there’s some stability and some order, can be profound. So many people want a formula. If I’m a good person, only good things will happen to me. If someone does something hurtful, they’ll pay. But life doesn’t tend to unfold in this linear, logical way.
The thing is, when we grasp our ideas and opinions, we also close ourselves off to other ways of thinking about things, and we can draw proverbial lines in the sand between ourselves and other people. At the foundation of every religion, for example, there’s love. There’s a moral code of conduct. Don’t kill. Don’t Lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t gossip. Be responsible with your sexual energy. Know yourself. Most of us wouldn’t argue with any of that. Fighting happens when we cling and insist we know what the answers are, and anyone who disagrees with us, anyone who’s come up with different answers, is wrong. Fear is at the heart of “us versus them”. Fear motivates a need to be right. And many people experience someone else’s different idea as a rejection of their own.
For me, I accept help and love from any source. If it’s comforting and it makes sense to me, I could not care less about labels. Is it Jewish love? Christian love? Muslim love? Buddhist love? If it’s love, it’s good by me. We get so crazy with our labels. Labels cause friction, and friction leads to combustion. Is there female air and male air? Black air and white air? How ‘bout we all just breathe together?
Yes, sometimes hatred is taught, and that’s very very sad. Racism begins at home, as does compassion. Of course we can always un-learn and relearn if we were taught that all people were not created equal. But obviously you’re starting off with an advantage if you understand that beautiful people and damaged people alike, come in all colors, shapes and sizes. The reality is, we’re one family on one planet. We’d get a lot further with love and respect than we do with insistence and violence.
Why do people feel threatened if someone makes a choice that’s different than their own? Maybe it creates doubt within them about what they’re doing, and what the point of it all is. Existential pain hits most of us at some time or another. What if we’re blowing it? What if we missed the memo about what we’re doing here? What if we die without having lived from our hearts? So, yes, people can get pretty frightened when they perceive a different idea as an attack upon what they think. A person who’s worked hard to organize the world in a way that makes sense to her or himself might very well feel the need to cling to those answers.
But the more we realize we’re with each other and not against each other, the more everything flows. If we understand we have these finite resources to share, we might be more mindful about our choices and habits. Peace is a choice. Walking a peaceful path takes guts and bravery. Loosening your grip on your own ideas can be scary, but if you have faith in yourself, there’s no need to grasp so tightly. if you have faith in the answers you’ve worked out, you can loosen your grip, and hear the hearts and minds of other people. This is how we open to each other, and it crosses every area of our lives.
When you have the choice between being right and being kind, always choose kindness. Think about your gravestone if it helps: “Here lies a person who was always right.” or, “Here lies a person who loved and listened and opened and learned. Who embraced and explored and examined.”
Sending you love, and wishing you peace. Ally Hamilton