In the last few weeks, I’ve become increasingly aware of my habit to connect over cruelty – gossiping about others, bitching about them behind their back, making judgements about who they are based on what I’m told by someone else. Everyone does it – at the workplace, over brunch, on TV shows. It’s another version of small talk; if we’ve already covered the weather, then let’s talk about who we have in common. It’s a bit like a drug; you get a buzz from it. It feels good to be judgemental. There. I said it. Sometimes I think I need to tally up the ways I’m better than you, and we are better them, so I can feel better about myself.
Except it doesn’t make me feel better about myself. It doesn’t take long for the effects of comradery-through-bitching to wear off and clarity to come crashing in. Where did my integrity go? What about my kindness? My compassion? What a hypocrite I am for judging someone for something I do myself. Why do I want to hurt this person with my thoughtless words?
As I think about everyone in Paris (and around the world) affected by actions of terrorists this weekend, I find myself thinking about what me and the terrorists have in common. Of course there is a part of me that wants to distance myself from them and their acts of needless violence, to look at them with anger and disgust, and declare them enemies we must unite against and fight. But if I’m truly honest with myself, I see the enemy is not just out there, but also within me. In my own way, I am also a terrorist.
How is what I do at work or out with friends different from me going out on the street and shooting someone randomly? Sure, there’s no visible sign of injury. The person I’m attacking may not even be aware I’m doing so. But the suffering I’m perpetuating is the same. I’m stirring a big pot of disharmony, adding fuel to a raging fire that needs to be put out, not spread.
I don’t want to behave like this anymore. I don’t want to engage with others on that level. There is no need for me to cause more pain; there is enough hurt already. I want to put my energy into practicing being the light.
Imagine what would happen if we all looked inside for our enemy, and upon finding them there, took their hand, looked them in the eye and said “I love you. Please tell me how I can help you”. What peace would be possible then?