Okay here’s the deal. I know we didn’t mean to become the way we are, but in the end the ultimate source of all of our struggles is the simply fact that we are unwittingly an insanely selfish, self-absorbed egomaniac that’s only happy if we’re constantly getting our own way.
I know, doesn’t sound like us, does it? But it is. That’s because that’s how all of our egos are. We can argue all kinds of great arguments, but in the end those will all be justifications for us being unhappy with things that we don’t mentally approve of.
The upside is that, because everyone else is like that too, that points to the fact that our dissatisfaction points to a key aspect of our success. If we’re looking for success, trying the opposite of what creates unhappiness is a good place to start.
Most unhappiness is ego-based. We’re born present and sane. But we slowly get our ego’s inflated by others without us or them really noticing it’s happening. Human thought simply developed in this direction without people realizing the ramifications.
People generally don’t think about their egos, but every human being knows the ramification of having one when it starts causing trouble. That’s why most people love it when I burst their ego bubble. But for some, the bursting part is hard, because it can challenge our present identity as a good and righteous person.
People really are good. So the hardest ideas to challenge are those ideas that involve our personal “rules” for the rest of the world, because we feel those represent the definitions of our ‘goodness.’
For most people most of those rules are decent and ‘good.’ And we all need them, so people are right to value them. But… but they are each our own and they cannot be effectively applied to others on a fine scale.
When we average out our personal rules, society calls those ‘laws.’ But even when people share laws, they will still have massively different things categorized as ‘good,’ or ‘valued.’
When others fail to recognize the very real value in others, it’s very upsetting because we naturally know that disrupts the unity of the larger tribe. So being offended by that lack of respect is entirely understandable. Which is why, just about the only subject I write about that upsets people is, when I challenge the wisdom of remaining offended.
I’m not pro-offense. But if we despise cruelty, and if we really want it to be reduced, then let’s not waste energy on being offended when there are so many other more helpful things we could be being. Our offense is just our notification of required action, it isn’t the action itself.
As an example, racism is negative and counterproductive because it grinds good humans against good humans. But if we want it to end we must respond wisely. Offense accomplishes little. Unless our anger or frustration energizes a strategy, it it is wasted on meaningless emotional displays.
If Daryl Davis, (the black musician who’s converted over 200 KKK members), was so offended by their beliefs that he could not see the good in them, then he never would have spoken to them.
But if Daryl never spoke to them, then he would never would have given them the opportunity to get to know him. And he’s a caring person, so they liked him. In the end, that was what changed their views and lead them to leave the KKK. And that made Daryl happy.
It’s not that people’s anger isn’t understandable on big issues. It is. For our egos. But our spirits simply don’t need this much anger and disapproval. If we’re operating from a perspective of wisdom, those emotional reactions are strictly signals that our lives require an application of love.
As counter-intuitive as it seems, it’s by caring about those KKK members views, that Davis was able to connect with their shared humanity and help them unite with him as human beings in a shared tribe.
And this doesn’t only impact us on big issues of societal offense. On a personal scale, offense is often also what keeps friendships and family relationships on ice when they could be moving forward. The entire film Field of Dreams is built on that premise.
Of course hurt people’s feelings are entirely understandable and we need to make room for them. But maturity is when we learn to use our ugly feelings to motivate strategic, meaningful action.
People like Gandhi or Martin Luther King weren’t effective because they were angry. They were effective because they found ways to take their anger and convert it into care for themselves, and for their supposed enemies.
With only one side ceasing to see the other as enemies, the two groups could finally merge more successfully. Ultimately, on a societal scale, these are changes that often take several generations to completely take effect, because they happen one person at a time, as Daryl’s examples prove. But imagine if the world was filled with Daryl’s?
The reason people dislike taking on this counter-intuitive responsibility of care is because, if we’re upset and our feelings are hurt, none of us wants to think that on top of that, that we have to do the work to feel better.
Very understandably, when any of us is in pain, we want that pain to be someone else’s fault because we feel like we are now less. We need to regain our equality, so we want some kind of service, or price, or penance. And that egocentric, thought-based desire is what holds up change.
We can’t do anything effectively in the world until we’ve at least got some basic control over our feelings. And that control can only be gotten by owning them. That’s why we need to take responsibility for our own suffering.
No matter what it’s about, whining can be a legitimate knee-jerk reaction. But if we do it, we must do so in full knowledge that our complaints won’t change anything. If our ego wants to whine, then it should do that without guilt.
However, if we want to truly see change, the urge to complain must do more than fuel our emotions. It just go on to motivate wise and affirmative action.
Any human being can experience the feeling of offense because nature knew we would need that feeling. So nothing strange is happening when we feel it; we just don’t like it. But even if we are offended, the reality is, that is merely another call to use love to create greater connections between ourselves and those who may appear to not be like us.
The world does not unite due to anger. The anger just makes things present. But in the end, it is always love that acts to cause separate things to become One. And every time that happens, people grow in their capacity to create happiness. It’s why I always say, caring for others is a form of caring for ourselves.
With love, s
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.