By Jamie Neben
With the year barely underway, I began thinking about the state of the world in 2014, and things we need to do better if there’s to be any hope of progress. When I say “we”, I mean our whole society. This article may not specifically apply to you. You may already might be out there doing great and amazing work, and if that’s the case, I applaud you tremendously. However, I certainly have room for improvement, and hopefully this list will inspire myself and others like me.
LET GO OF ANGER
Anyone familiar with the Star Wars universe knows that anger and hate create a path to the dark side. While “The Force” was created for a fictional movie series, we don’t have to look hard in the real world to find people who have crossed over to their own personal dark sides. Their lives are governed by bitterness and entrenched in negativity. Humor is exchanged for cynicism, and despair replaces delight. Sure, life can be stressful and downright cruel at times as we’re put into unwanted and undeserved situations, and I cannot fault those who have difficulty handling them. I also concede that anger and even rage is appropriate in some instances. But many carry hostility inside of them as a matter of principle rather than as the result of a particular ongoing crisis.
Our attitudes are important because they set the tone for how we treat one another, and can push or pull the mood a certain direction when there is disagreement. Think about it in your own life. Have you ever contacted a company about a billing mistake that made you furious, only to be calmed down by a pleasant-sounding representative who resolved the issue? Maybe you’re the one with the soothing voice when others get upset. But what if both of you lost your cool and the argument becomes escalated? Now imagine that on a more widespread scale. People across the world are hurting and killing each other because they cannot control their anger. This must stop.
RESPECT OUR NEIGHBORS
The Golden Rule states that we should treat our neighbors as ourselves. A large number of people don’t seem to adhere to that credo, and if they do, they must think rather poorly of themselves. The disrespect human beings pay each other can be absolutely mind-numbing. From belligerence to teachers in school to road rage on the freeway to random strangers being knocked out on the street, the rules are being rewritten and seem to favor just ourselves. If there is collateral damage, so be it.
Displaying proper manners is always a good starting place for respecting our neighbors, but they go beyond how we act when someone’s around. We need to be mindful of how we interact with the community at large. Compassionate hearts have great potential to change lives for the better, and personal decisions can have far-reaching benefits. Some examples might include doing our best to directly or indirectly assist the poor and sick, finding ways to expand educational opportunities, and supporting laws that underscore tolerance and equality. At a minimum, we should try to halt the spread of the most damaging threats to humanity. We need to call out racism, bigotry, bullying, and other social evils when we encounter them and send a clear message that they are not acceptable. Without question, we need to do more to ensure that weapons are only sold to responsible citizens.
In other words, when we act in a way that promotes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (as long as it’s not at the expense of others), we give and earn respect.
LEARN TO COMPROMISE
One more thing we need to do better is learn to work together. This goes hand-in-hand with respecting our neighbors. Every one of us is a politician for our own self-interests and that is hard-wired into our design. Thank goodness, our own interests often coincide with the welfare of others to some degree or else our dog-eat-dog world would be even more ferocious.
But as kind and generous as we’re capable of being, we can also be stubborn enough to stick to our agendas at great expense. While trying to reach a goal, we often would prefer to concede nothing, and thus receive nothing, rather than give a little ground so that everyone gets something. In other words, a loss is still a win. Such tenacity might be admirable to a point, but the refusal to budge an inch in order to permit forward progress is hardly a virtue. Willingness to negotiate has become a sign of weakness when it should be viewed as a pillar of strength. Our figurative line in the sand needs to be as reasonable as it is firm. The idea that to make a bargain with someone you disagree with is like making a deal with the devil is absurd.
As the Rolling Stones told us in song, we can’t always get what we want. Shouldn’t it be enough that we get what we need?
STOP WASTING TIME
Finally, we must get moving on these things as soon as possible. The world is already a mess and, judging by the nightly news, it just keeps getting worse.
We need to establish and reinforce a global mindset that emphasizes peace over antagonism, and love over hate. We should treat fellow human beings from a starting point of respect instead of contempt. We must realize the power of forgiveness to set us free when we have been done wrong (it does not necessarily absolve the wrongdoer). The overall adjustment may take time to register, but it’s not impossible. Since negative thoughts and actions attract more of the same, the same can be said for positive energy. If each one of us makes the choice to be positive, the ripple effect can be enormous. And before you know it, the world will be a better place.