People keep thinking the world’s a terrible place and yet people who are psychologically healthy see only challenges and fundamentally good people at various states of life who impact those challenges in a variety of ways that make sense. The Buddhists call this ‘causality.’
We have all done things we wouldn’t do today, so when people move in what we might call the ‘wrong’ direction that is really just humans being human. If they can’t avoid that then we can’t either, so the real problem is our thinking –our judgment.
The media makes a lot of money off our strongest emotions –fear, anger and sexuality– and they do not tell us really what is happening, they tell us whatever is happening that is likely to incite those emotions because that’s what keeps our eyeballs tuned into their product and their job is to sell ads or themselves.
But those financial incentives should be seen as just that: only an incentive. We can choose to see all of the countless great things that happen every day.
The reason this matters is because it is brain-training. If we constantly judge others for being ways we’re not, and if we constantly look for what’s wrong, scary or disrespectful, we aren’t defining who the ‘bad’ people are, we are teaching ourselves to be be judgmental and disrespectful to ourselves. Our brains get good at actions. Which directions they are aimed at is irrelevant.
How many people watch for kind or generous acts conducted by drivers or pedestrians? Who watches for people helping others with their kids, or small kindnesses offered in a grocery store lineup? Who sees the book recommendation from a co-worker as an act of love? They had a wonderful experience and want to share it with us. That is a beautiful thing.
As someone who does this all the time, I see evidence of how the world is amazing every single day, from scientists making life-saving discoveries to new parents losing all of their sleep to care for a newborn, to signs designed to help us find where we’re going, or a boss correcting our work so that we don’t lose our jobs. Even something as simple as walking by a park shows that, at some point, some people cared enough about others to want them to have some green-space.
By seeing the best in the world around us we help ourselves to see those qualities within ourselves too. We benefit from exercising that muscle. We benefit from the practice. When we feel strong, and when we feel like we have many allies, we are powerful beings.
The problem is less our differences and more about how we choose to live with them. Because the problem with two people disagreeing over an issue is not that they differ, it’s when they will employ hatred and a lack of respect and then claim the other person deserves it for merely disagreeing with our beliefs —no matter what those beliefs are.
If we want to know how spiritual we truly are, we find out in our exchanges with those with whom we do not agree. That will tell us how we treat ourselves during challenging times, because that is when we also question our own wisdom and question our own worth.
Criticism takes us nowhere, but compassion and humility will get us where we want to be. And that can not only change us, it can change the world, because young minds will use us as the guides for their own behaviour.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.