Here we are again.
And I’m tired of this story.
I’m tired from the suffering. The pain. The violence. The death.
We hear it all too often.
They bleed in Paris. We bleed in America. It doesn’t matter where we bleed. The World bleeds.
All. The. Time.
The never ending cycle of inflicting violence upon one another as a way to achieve justice and as our means to achieve security for ourselves and our loved ones.
No matter who you are, you probably see the actions of those you support as in the right. As necessary acts to further justice, freedom and security. Every person believes they are in the right and only seeks to view the actions of the other party as further evidence to solidify their own righteousness.
And yet, we are confused and frustrated as to why this keeps happening. Any “justice” or “security” we achieve through employing our current defensive strategies appears to be temporary. In reality, when we control one “evil” through defensive mechanisms, another one takes it’s place.
Clearly this rollercoaster ride cannot be the correct long-term strategy to the end state we desire as a Nation, the end state we desire as a World. Have we really stopped to ask ourselves what is it we ultimately want the world to look like and how our actions now serve that vision?
I’m not naïve. I know that the reason why I’m able to sit here, write this opinion piece and live my comfortable life is due to those defensive strategies and the people that make those possible. I am very grateful and I know how privileged I am.
But I’m torn because I know that ultimately it’s at the expense of others.
I refuse to accept that the God I believe in created a world where only some people could have safe, prosperous, fulfilling lives.
If we believe in the pure goodness of the universe, there has to be as solution where ALL can have better lives. In fact maybe that’s why we see a continuation of violence in spite of our efforts.
If you ask me the answer is simple. Extremely difficult to implement, but simple.
The defensive strategies we employ to keep us safe in the short-term are only half the equation. I understand we must take measures to address reality, but I think we should also be playing offense. Offense related to changing our reality rather than always responding and defending against it.
That’s where true security and prosperity lies. Changing our reality. Which almost every single one of us has the power to do.
It all comes back to what I see as the foundation of cultivating mental health: the fundamental choice we make between love and fear.
Whether you are aware of this or not, you make this decision thousands of times a day. It is these decisions that shape our reality, both in our individual lives and at a global scale.
How to talk and respond to others, what you eat, how you dress and the hobbies you engage in are all decisions we make based on our core values, our core beliefs. These beliefs are either rooted in fear or love.
While I don’t pretend to know everything related to terrorism, and violence for that matter, and why it persists in our world (although I did spend the better part of six years studying political science and international affairs!), I do know this: it requires people to make decisions from a place of fear.
Right now, I think it’s safe to say that most people make decisions from a place of fear. Fear stemming from fear-based beliefs about life. If you change these fundamental beliefs, reality WILL change.
I know because I have done this in my own life.
Almost every ill we experience in our world: terrorism, racism, abuse, anger, violence, and hate are all rooted in fear. Every single one.
I absolutely refuse to believe that all the people inflicting these ills have true irreversible brain dysfunction that will not allow them to operate from a place of love instead of fear.
Certainly those people do exist. But, the number of people suffering from such a severe brain affliction is the exception to the rule.
When you think about an organization like ISIS, do they have some crazy ass people involved that are incapable of making decisions rooted in love? Absolutely.
But, what about the thousands of other people that join their organization?
We know that ISIS is effective in recruiting people to their belief systems. People willingly change their beliefs to align with those of the organization. That’s how a few people turn into a violent movement.
They are recruiting the people that are already full of fear.
People that are fearful for their ability to survive due to poverty, persecution and violence.
But also they are people that are fearful that they’ll never be accepted or important, people that are fearful they are unlovable, people that are fearful of pain and loss, and people that are afraid they have no worth.
They recruit people that don’t have anything to live for literally and figuratively.
While I’m certainly no member of ISIS, I can relate to some of those fears and I know how dominating they can be in life if they’re left unchecked. I know how hopeless, scary and desperate it can feel.
ISIS is doing something valuable for these people that I don’t believe that we are. They are actively seeking to give people solutions to these fears.
Unfortunately, their solution is to simply transfer the fear to others. To transfer and multiply the fear for Parisians, for Americans, for Syrians and others.
And we turn around and multiply that fear again through our retaliation and defensive strategies. Creating more people looking for a solution to their fears.
They have waged an offensive war for the minds of the people that follow them and the people who don’t yet.
My question is, why haven’t we launched a similar offensive strategy?!? A strategy addressing root causes of the violence, a strategy involving actively seeking to help people overcome their fears. The only real solution – love.
This isn’t about religion or politics, it’s about peace. And peace isn’t about being a hippy, it’s about security and prosperity for ourselves and our loved ones, folks. Peace is ultimate freedom.
Somewhere along the line, the word peace seems to have become incompatible with words like security and freedom. You rarely ever hear them spoken together. But, they’re really the same thing.
No matter if you’re Christian or atheist, conservative or liberal, we probably have different words to describe our ideal society, but I can guarantee you it all boils down to peace at some level.
I have traveled a lot of the world and I have yet to come across someone that doesn’t deep down desire the same. Not a single person.
So how do you get to a place where the majority of people use love as their main decision making force versus fear?
We must address two root causes of fear.
- Poverty – a real source of fear for many people. No amount of positive mindset teaching can truly change reality if people’s basic survival needs are not met. Not to mention that mental wellness can’t be fully realized with poor nutrition.
- Poisonous mindsets – cultivating a mentally healthy population through mindset education, giving people tools to overcome challenges, negative emotions and beliefs. Making love the dominating force.
When are we going to realize that if we all want to live in a peaceful world, that addressing poverty is not charity and mental health is not a luxury or a term only associated with mental illness? We have an obligation to address fear head on and it’s applicable to everyone.
We need to play some offense. Love is the offense.
It can be no other way.
The tricky part is, that no amount of words can change someone else’s beliefs. It has to be a willing transformation.
Maybe you’re reading this and disagreeing with every point. Then you know the truth to this last sentence.
The only realistic thing we can do is lead by example.
We must recognize that living our best life is inextricably linked to others, but at the same time, can only begin inside each and every one of us. We must recognize that cultivating mental wellness is everyone’s responsibility.
I don’t claim to be perfect and I respond to situations out of fear more often than I’d like to admit. But, I’m working at it. And I approach every day with a little more love than the last.
It is illogical to fight fire with fire or fear with fear as a permanent solution. This is what Dr. Martin Luther King meant when he said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.
And it starts with you.
Face your fears head on. Make decisions from a place of love and see what happens around you. It’s the only way to realistically and permanently change our world.
Much love and gratitude.