From the Global to the Personal: How can I make a difference?

by
Ann C. Schauber

Force of Nature

I watch the evening news and I see and hear how every day we are killing one another around the world. “Why?” I ask. Is it for territory? For power? To be right? When will this end? Do I resign myself to believing it will never change? I am angry. I feel helpless.

In my neighborhood a while back, one neighbor reported another to the police, because the other bought fireworks that are illegal in Oregon (but not in the neighboring state). Bringing in fireworks is common practice here, though. Why did the police have to get involved? Can we not work things out with our neighbors? I feel hopeless.

I am not a confrontational person. I do not like conflict; but I accept that conflict is an essential part of living together when we all have many differences in how we make sense of our world. I love the diversity of perspectives and ways of being in the world; but do we have to harm one another in the process of living out these differences?

I also ask myself, “What is my personal role in all of this?” I am not one to march in the streets or write letters to the editor. Do I have a role here? I believe I do.

As I think about all of the people in my life – from my immediate and extended family to my close friends and acquaintances – I can ask myself, is there anyone in my life whom I am not speaking to or whom I have shut out of my life because of our differences? Yes, there are some whom I have shut out. I even feel justified in this, because they are… “close-minded,” “prejudiced,” “judgmental of me,” “harmful to others” … (and on and on my own judgments go).

I also recognize that shutting others out of my life is simply my ego setting up defenses for its own survival. In truth, however, none of these issues I have with others actually threatens my survival. These others simply see the world quite differently from me and act accordingly. My ego gets up in arms over this.

This is where I must begin. I must clean up my own messes. I must try to make peace with those whom I have shut out of my life. It is not easy, though. It makes me uncomfortable. This work takes courage, good communication skills, a commitment to seeing the other’s perspective, and a willingness to see my own defensive thoughts and actions.

Ultimately, if I can come to a place of respect and feel a sense of connectedness to everyone I know, including myself, I am taking a step toward ending the violence in the world. I may not agree with a person’s values, beliefs, and actions, but I can develop a practice of respecting our differences and showing compassion. I can also be observant of my ego and become aware of how I tend to impose my own perspectives on others.

I believe that essentially everyone is doing the best they know how at living their lives. At our core we all need to be loved and to belong, and we will do what we need to, in order to fill these needs (although many times at the expense of others). I also believe we all have the resources inside of us to work through our own challenges with the support of our community.

If I maintain a sense of connectedness with those whom I come into contact with, I create an energetic space that allows them to be, and this encourages them to recognize their connectedness and allow others to be. With a mutual respect we may create the space to accept and work with our differences.

The steps I take to clear the air with anyone whom I am in discord with and to maintain an open sense of connectedness can send a ripple of peaceful energy out into the world. I do not think this is easy or comfortable, but it is essential. What would happen if more and more of us made peace in our relationships, generating these energetic ripples of interconnectedness into our world?

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