When I went to the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan this summer, I was treated to a charming and random act of kindness. As soon as I purchased museum admission, my friend and I were presented with mysterious folded and sealed letters. I opened my letter and was delighted to find a unique and thoughtful note: “Please enjoy the entire museum. Start from the top and work your way down. Smile today. Be the reason someone else smiles today. Enjoy!”
I was intrigued as to what prompted my new friend Gia to spend time on this gesture of kindness for a person she didn’t know, and whose reaction she wouldn’t see. I soon found out. Rounding the corner, I came across an invitation to write a letter of my own.
This invitation spoke of the “karmic ripples” one can create by participating in this delightful act of kindness. Having been touched by Gia, I paid it forward, and felt like an integral link in a chain of visitors, connected across time and experience.
It was a small but uplifting moment. It can be hard to feel positive these days, which often feel divisive, even dehumanizing.
It seems like we’re stuck in an unending chain of negativity. We’re more polarized than ever and a splintered news media entrenches us further. Social media algorithms ensure our existing views are reinforced. When we venture out of our social media bunkers we can find ourselves in conversation threads that bring out the worst in us, sending us back to our tribe and perpetuating our distrust of others.
That unexpected pay-it-forward experience at the Rubin Museum reestablished my feeling of interconnectedness. I knew that this experience made me feel good, and I wondered, can random acts of kindness jolt us out of an us-vs-them mentality and restore our faith in humanity?
The Psychological Benefits that Come with Random Acts of Kindness
Science supports that these little acts of kindness can have a big emotional impact. The ripples are real. Whether a giver, a receiver, or even simply an observer of a kindness, we are positively impacted both individually and collectively.
My fellow Americans,
I think it is time we talked. Not argued, but talked, you know, like adults do when they attempt to resolve their differences. Before we do, though, I believe that we need to make some adjustments to our approach. To assist with that process, allow me reference three ideas we use here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative, each of them addressing major points in regards to dialogue and reconciliation.
The Human Persona and The Ideological Persona
Padraig O’Malley, who was a facilitator during the Northern Ireland peace process, made the case that each human being has two personas, the ideological persona and the human persona. He pointed out that the only way to dehumanize the other is to see him or her only in terms of ideology and forget their humanity.
Think about that for a moment. Whenever we use an ideological label to describe a person, we fall into the trap of dehumanizing. It’s a great way to polarize, but a lousy way to live and can only lead to further divisions and hostilities.
Based on O’Malley’s concept, the first step towards dialogue is to remember that we are human and that the person on the other side of the discussion is also human, not merely a Christian or a Muslim, a conservative or a liberal, a snowflake or a gun rights activist, a climate warrior or a climate denier. Those are ideological stances people have taken, not something they are born with.
In our work at Harmony Interfaith Initiative, we are constantly reaching out to people and offering them our services. As one would expect, we get mixed responses. I’ve personally been surprised by one repeated response that I had not anticipated. In hindsight, maybe I should have seen it coming.
Here is what the gist of the response sounds like: “We are in complete harmony with each other here at the [church, temple, synagogue, spiritual center] and would welcome any and all to come and be with us. We see no need to engage in interfaith efforts at this time.” Reading between the lines, one can interpret the response this way: “We are okay. It’s them, not us.”
Maybe that is at the heart of the problem. No one thinks that they are to blame. Few are willing to accept responsibility and try to bridge divides. Think about it. Liberals think that conservatives are to blame for the ill will that exists between them, and Conservatives think Liberals are to blame. Christians think that Muslims are to blame and vice versa. The list goes on. Even interfaith activists think that those who refuse to participate are to blame.
We Are All Involved
In his interreligious principles, Dr. Leonard J. Swidler, points out that those who engage in interfaith dialogue need to be, “minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions.”
Harmony. Dignity. Compassion. Civility. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Words to live by. Words to heal by. How good it is to hear voices near and far proclaim such words in a world in which they seem so under siege and out of style.
I have long been a person who reacts, as many do, with a sense of moral outrage to divisiveness, prejudice, selfishness, and extremism. Nevertheless, I have mostly sat by passively, hoping for better things to come. But in recent times "better things" seem to be growing more and more scarce. The tides of change seem to be accelerating in the wrong direction.
Polarized When Anonymous
Some time ago I reached a point where a voice within my heart could no longer be silenced. If I was not in some way part of a solution, I was part of the problem. I began reading. I started with Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Forgiving. That led me to Donna Hicks’ Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict. I continued reading similar works and discovering web sites like this one that offered solutions and told stories of changed lives.
Early in my research I settled on a model that made sense to me and that seemed within my reach to implement. It assumes that dissimilar or opposing groups are most likely to become polarized when they are most anonymous to each other. I can only violate someone’s dignity if I first make him less than human in my mind. The seeds of acrimony grow where people are lumped into stereotypes, where they are misunderstood, where they are demonized.
To the extent this is true, an effective antidote may be found in breaking through the anonymity. I began to make plans to bring people from opposite sides of divides together in face-to-face, small group meetings where each person has a name and a face and a story about how they came to be the way they are. In an effort to brand the concept, I began to call it Dignity Dialogues. Mind you, I branded it only as a way to refer to the model, not with any thought of making it a business.
Human beings have a tendency to place other human beings on a pedestal. We look for examples of perfection and hold them up in contrast with the fallibility of the rest of us. Perfection is the ideal, the aspiration, the pinnacle. We long for it. And yet, more often than not, it turns out to be a mirage, a form of wishful thinking.
It's a story as old as time. A portrait of perfection is toppled when someone gets close enough to the person in question to see the truth (which is that some people are better than others, but none of us are truly perfect or infallible). An old Indian aphorism exemplifies this when it tells us that spiritual masters are like fire. If you are too far away, you get no heat. If you come too close, you get burned.
For most of us, if not all, perfection is not in the cards. But progress is. And we can all strive to be better.
Why Choose Progress?
Encouraging people to choose progress over perfection has become a staple in psychology, especially in cognitive behavioral therapy. In his landmark book, Feeling Good, one of the pioneers of CBT, David D. Burns wrote:
“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person.”
Happier and more productive. That sounds like a recipe for creating harmony from within.
Setting Ourselves Up for Failure
If this is true about individuals, isn’t it doubly true about groups? Aren’t we setting ourselves up for failure by aiming for perfect interactions or expecting too much from each other?
In fields such as interfaith work, community bridge building and social harmony, we cannot allow ourselves to be tempted by perfection. If we are expecting flawlessness, we will fail to see progress. For example:
In my line work, I am fortunate enough to cross paths with great people that are doing important work all around the globe, from South Africa to Great Britain, Canada to India, Texas to Minneapolis, and beyond.
All the people I communicate with at this level are working actively towards social harmony. For one reason or another, they have realized that social harmony is the cornerstone of society. Instead of seeing it as something nice or pleasant, they see it as imperative, in the same category as food, roads, education, and healthcare.
Seeing the Shadow or Being Whipped
An ancient parable tells us that a wise horse moves when he sees the shadow of the whip, while a foolish horse needs to be whipped every step of the way. The people I work with have seen the shadow that social discord is creating.
Last summer, I facilitated a course with nearly three hundred people from over twenty countries. More than half of them attended the course because they recognized the signs of division and acrimony as potentially dangerous. All of them wanted to learn strategies to push against the forces of friction and work towards social harmony.
Sadly, many in the larger population refuse to see the shadows of the ‘whips’ that are being cast all around them. Like the foolish horse, they are waiting for the whip to crack on their backside before they move a muscle. By then it may be too late.
When religion is based on fear, not Love,
You cannot feel that God's within,
You're stuck with the fear of "that God above,"
And spend your days in dreading "sin,"
You feel threatened that folks outside
Will obscure the "divine truth" from others,
And cannot see it's not they who hide,
The Oneness you share with all sisters and brothers,
You cling to verses in a book,
And dare not go within yourself,
You cannot take that deeper look,
When you put the book up on the shelf,
The darkest fears then make you tell,
All sorts of lies you think are real,
You'd rather say, "Kill the infidel!"
Than see inside behind your zeal,
Plowing Heaven under, creating "hell,"
You run from what you cannot feel,
And while obsessed with hatred and killing,
Far from the Truth behind your chapter and verse,
Seeing only difference in those unwilling
To follow your way, you make things worse.
I care about society. That is why I have always had an interest in politics. Not because of the personal attacks, drama, and larger than life personalities, but because of the implications on society. More than once in the past few years I have been tempted to throw myself into the mix and start running for office. But then I stop a moment, think about the implications and withdraw.
Why? Because I want to work towards a more harmonious society and in order to become elected in the current atmosphere the business of politics expects the opposite. Even those who champion equal rights and harmony have begun stooping to the level of name-calling and grandstanding. It seems that (almost) every politician is forced to take tougher and more unequivocal stances to get elected. There is no room for nuance or working across the isle.
The same is true about activists. They need to take ever-tougher stances (it seems) and scream bloody murder on social media and in the streets to gain attention. I hear what they are saying and agree with a lot of it, but again, it seems counter to the goal of creating social harmony where people can civilly air their disagreements without demonizing each other.
King and Gandhi
The more I study what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi did in their nonviolent movements, the more impressed I am with the poise they showed in the face of adversity and their unwavering commitment to love.
It’s easy to become angry and irritated in the face of injustice, biases, and discrimination and respond in kind. It’s also easy to become so overwhelmed and enraged that it feels justified and like the right thing to do. I know that both Gandhi and King struggled with those emotions time and time again but they restrained themselves, both advocating love for those who would call themselves their enemies. That must have taken will, determination, and faith.
We have incredible amounts of information at our fingertips. Anyone with a smartphone can get educated about whatever they are interested in—for free. But something has gone terribly wrong. What was once dubbed the Age of Information can now rightfully be called the Age of Misinformation… and we are all a part of the problem.
I get it. Controversy screams at us in a sea of endless information. It self-perpetuates through a cycle of clicks and shares and is fueled by supporters, trolls and outrage.
But at what point will we stop and realize that this trend has turned into a harmful addiction?
When will we realize that we have created an undercurrent of division that has played right into the hands of those who generate the acrimony, and have, quite frankly, succeeded in disrupting our society far beyond their wildest dreams?
When will we accept responsibility for our own part in creating this online phenomenon?
And when will we collectively realize that the only solution is to stop clicking on everything that triggers us, to stop feeding the monster of division?
A wild campion flower that bloomed in an arctic meadow when mammoths and woolly rhinoceros walked the Earth offered me hope in a difficult time, and I believe she offers hope and guidance for our struggling world today.
Within her delicate white petals and slender dark green leaves is a dramatic tale. She died in the late Pleistocene age 32,000 years ago, stored in an arctic squirrel’s burrow on the banks of the Kolyma River in far eastern Siberia, buried by windblown silt of the ice age, captured in frozen ground 125 feet below the surface of the Earth. Now, she is reborn, having been resurrected by Russian scientists.
When I laid eyes on the little arctic flower in The New York Times, 2.20.2012, I felt ancient memories stir. She entered my consciousness as I stood on the doorway of my sixties weary from months of chemo, surgery, and radiation for breast cancer, thankful for life. Her translucent white petals reminded me of long forgotten dreams. As she was recovered from the frozen dark depths, I would begin to delve into my inner world, my frozen dark depths, and rise naked to buried grief, which helped me to let go of my past and be more alive to the present.
I imagine the ancient flower’s mythical story. Dying in a long-ago cycle of life on Earth, she has returned from the underworld to show her beauty and strength to our world in 2012, the year the Mayan’s predicted the end of a great cycle and the beginning of a new cycle of Life on Earth. She embodies yin and yang, male and female; and she is here to guide us as we learn to not fear the mammoths of our time but to join together in a river of compassion and bear witness to the many stories of pain and suffering.
We are told not to talk about ideological differences. Look at where that has gotten us. We are more ideologically divided than ever before. Maybe we should reconsider? These are important topics worthy of conversation. For example, when we discuss politics, we are debating what kind of society we want to live in, and when we discuss religion, we are speaking of personal values and spiritual inclinations.
If we want to have civil discussions, we need to make a distinction between two competing elements that are found within each human being. Equipped with that understanding, we can practice talking to each other rather than talking at each other.
Human and Ideological Personas
The idea of the two personas—which is central to our work at Harmony Interfaith Initiative and was originally presented by Padraig O’Malley who took part in the Northern Ireland peace process—explains the distinction we need to make if we want to have meaningful discussions. According to O’Malley, each human being is a mix of two personas. One is human the other ideological.
A number of the world’s religions have made the cultivation of goodness their primary goal, which—for a lack of another word—is good. Goodness is both a lofty and worthy ideal. Who wouldn’t want to be able to display more empathy, kindness, love, altruism, and compassion?
Having said that, there are two very different ways to achieve the goal of becoming a better person that have to do with strong emotions of attraction and repulsion. We call this the attraction-repulsion principle.
To understand the dynamics, it is important to realize that goodness cannot exist in a vacuum since it is a dualistic concept. For goodness to exist there has to exist something other than goodness. This means that when we are attracted by what we perceive as good, we are naturally repulsed by the opposite. The stronger our attraction, the stronger the repulsion can become.
Attraction Automatically Generates Repulsion
One approach to cultivating goodness focuses on the beneficial elements of changing one’s behavior; the other focuses on the detrimental aspects of the opposite behavior. One embraces on the sun while the other tries to eliminate the shadow.
“Focus on the sun! The shadow can’t be eliminated!” one could exclaim.
Sure. It would probably be better if we could just focus on the positive aspects of goodness and cultivate niceties without accruing any dislike for their opposites, but it is harder than you think—near impossible I would say.
Students are always astounded when I tell them about the role that poetry has always played in cultures throughout history. “Come on,” they laugh almost in unison. “Poetry?” But the truth is poetry has always been with us, most probably since the beginning of language.
Its origin is most likely rooted in the sacred, what was the beginning of ritual and religion. Members of the community who acted as interpreters between humanity and the abundant natural gods that were believed to exist in hunter-gatherer clans and tribes, what we anthropologists call animism, couldn’t just speak in everyday language when communicating with the gods or spirits; anyone could do that. Instead, these shamans employed their own language, their own elevated or exalted speech patterns that sounded like they must indeed be speaking to the “other world.” Shamans passed on their secret knowledge to apprentices. Over time, these special speech language patterns may have become what we presently call poetry.
I am by no means the first to make such a claim. My friend Gary Snyder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poetry, drew similar connections decades ago, when I was a boy.
Ritual and Religion
Poetry’s connection to ritual and religion is still with us today. Consider the Psalms in The Old Testament. The Qur’an is said to be poetic, if not poetry altogether. Many other seminal texts of world religions contain poetry. I recently finished reading a translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, a major poetic text in Daoism (also spelled Taoism). Even Confucius wrote poetry. In Hinduism, the Mahabharata is the world’s longest poem. The oldest existing literature, the epic of The Gilgamesh, written in Mesopotamia around 2100 B.C.E., is a poem. Not only is it a poem, but it centers on two main characters, Gilgamesh and Enkidu, who was created by the gods to stop Gilgamesh. In fact, the whole story involves the frequent intervention of gods. Within the epic are also the stories of The Garden of Eden and The Flood (see The Flood tablet at left), both of which eventually made their way into the Old Testament. Even our childhood bedtime prayers are poetry:
One of my favorite books by Erich Fromm is titled The Art of Loving. His main message is that cultivating love is an art form. Fromm gives examples of innate talents in everything from painting to dance to music to acting, showing the reader that natural talent only accounts for a small percentage of the art created by the artist.
For example, someone who sits at the piano and starts playing the Moonlight Sonata at an early age (like my son did) has to practice hard if professional status is ever to be achieved (which he did not, opting for the trumpet instead).
Practice. That is the key element for Fromm. The ability to love takes practice because the innate feeling can only take us so far.
My Own Experiences With Love
Having been married since 2001 and having spent the last fifteen years taking care of my children, I can attest to that. My initial feelings, both for my wife and for my children, were only seeds. I’ve had to nurture and weed on a continual basis. Thankfully, my ability to love has grown because I have made it a priority in my life. Now, because of great social unrest, I am doing the same in the area of social harmony.
One of the biggest surprises and joys in my sixties is that I decided to volunteer as an education advisor for the Charter For Compassion. I had signed the Charter for Compassion declaration several years ago confirming my support for all that the charter stands for and does. It was wonderful to affirm a document that expressed so deeply all that I am about at my core. For a long time thereafter I would receive their emails in my inbox. I remember always saying to myself, “Someday I will get involved in the great things the Charter does.”
To us a partnership as the ‘coming together of two or more entities to further the causes of social harmony and bridge-building.’ Below you will find a list of possible partnership opportunities including education, good causes, workshops and conferences, equal exchanges, and more. Naturally, our list represents the limits of our creativity and we are open to exploring all other possibilities that are brought to our attention.
Do You Share Our Vision?
Our vision statement is: We envision a world where people have good access to strategies, methods and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge-building across divides. If you share our vision and want to live in a world where more people are well equipped to bridge gaps and promote harmony, then we want to find a way to work with you.
Partnering for Co-Human Causes
If you are gathering people and organizations to work for co-human causes, we are all ears. We love being a part of the synergy that happens when many forces come together for an altruistic reason like the rays of the sun through the lens of a magnifying glass to ignite a blaze of awareness. We can use our social media platforms, blog, and personal connections to help spread the message.
Partnering for Education
Our offerings contain some of the best ideas and strategies for bridge-building and social harmony available today. We are happy to partner with anyone who wants to offer them to their group. Below are a couple of examples.
What is in a man’s heart? Men are likely the only ones who truly know. Normally, they protect what’s at their very core from other men and perhaps the women and partners in life. Fear of being vulnerable and shame keep them from connecting with other men, yet it is only when we men open our hearts that these questions get answered.
When Can Men Put Down Their Swords and Shields?
The emphasis over the past fifty years in the U.S. and a few other countries has been on raising the consciousness around women, addressing women’s issues, validating their rightful place in the world and the sacredness of the divine feminine. To say this work is long overdue and that we have a long way to go would certainly be an understatement.
But what about men? When and how do men get the opportunity to put down their swords and shields to go inward to heal themselves? What about the divine masculine and what about male spirituality?
Interfaith is about creating harmony between people who profess to different faiths and ideologies. Interspirituality is an exploration of mystical traditions and experiences. Interfaith is for everyone. Interspirituality is not. Allow me to explain.
The Need to Feel Safe
Most people want to live in a peaceful society. They want to be able to go about their business without feeling marginalized, being discriminated against, or having to stay alert because of threats of violence.
However, because we live in a pluralistic and diverse society where people have different views and ideologies, there are those among us who do not feel that way. Because this need to feel safe is always present, it is important for all groups to get to know each other, to be around each other, to feel safe in each other’s presence—to inter-mingle.
My experience with interfaith events over the past few years has been exactly this. People of all faiths and different backgrounds come together, not to agree on ideologies or theologies, but rather to appreciate each other’s humanity. After each event, I have walked away with a feeling of calm and a certain degree of elation because I have witnessed cordial personal interactions in a larger societal context that feels much more divisive.
Working Towards a Peaceful Society
Interfaith should be for everyone* who wants to work towards a more peaceful society. As the name implies, interfaith should include all faiths, but we also need to include those who stand outside of organized religion, including humanists, secularists, those who prefer to label themselves spiritual-but-nonreligious, and everyone in between.
Does religion equal division? It is a seemingly easy question to answer. From observing the news on any given day, most people would answer yes, religion does divide. Any number of conflicts around the world can be attributed to religious differences and modern political rhetoric is using religion to pit people against each other.
The same can be said when we look back at history. Religious differences seem to be at the root of many conflicts. The dividing aspects are easy to amplify. “I believe this, you believe that and that is why we are different. In fact, your beliefs so offend me that I am willing to take up arms against you.”
Those who place religion at the center of most conflicts use this rhetoric.
Religion Itself May Not Be the Cause
Comparative religion author, Huston Smith, maintained the position that most wars have been fought over lands and resources, been mired in tribal history (as in, “your tribe did this to my tribe many years ago, that is why we fight”), or been instigated by power hungry individuals who used religion to fan the flames of war. In short, divisive people cause division with divisive rhetoric and actions, sometimes under the guise of religion.
Can religious division be explained away like that? It’s probably too simplistic, even if there is truth to it. Religion can’t be exempt when it comes to divisiveness.
Faith Reflected in Behavior
However, when we look at the other side of the ledger, we see that religion has the potential to extract the very finest from within people and be the cause for harmony. There are religious people of all faiths who place tremendous emphasis on kindness and compassion.
Isn’t that the hallmark of true religion, practicing your faith until it shows in your behavior? In The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James notes that:
We use the term ‘co-human harmony’ a lot here at Harmony Interfaith Initiative. It’s the name of our flagship program and the title of an upcoming book that we are publishing in January 2019 with Flaming Leaf Press. To us, it’s an important term with vital connotations. It deserves a concise definition.
Understanding the difference between the human and ideological personas is one of the central ideas we work with here at the initiative. Each human being is a blend of both.
The human persona consists of everything that human beings share. We are all born, we die, we breathe, we eat, we sleep, we feel, we suffer, we laugh… the list goes on and on.
The ideological persona consists of values and beliefs that cannot be independently proven or disproven. Every –ism, be it political or religious, falls into this category.
The term ‘co-human’ relates to the human persona. It’s an expression of our shared humanity. Using the term helps shine a brighter light on the things we have in common.
Harmony is the coming together of many disparate notes to form a pleasing whole. Harmony exists on a spectrum. A garage band creates one type of harmony, a barbershop quintet another, and so on. Harmony does not have to sound like the Vienna Boys Choir to be pleasing.
Everyone is a critic. It’s easy to look around, find the things we disagree with or don’t like and then let loose. With the number of social media outlets and blogs available, it’s never been easier.
And yet, few ever stop and think about what the purpose of a critique is. Is it to let everyone know about a particular point of view that is opposite to another person’s point of view? Is it a dog whistle that signals to a group of likeminded people? Is it a way to show superiority by means of demeaning others? Or is a critique the start of a constructive conversation about what can be done better?
Opposition, dog whistling and demeaning need no further examination as they speak for themselves. However, if a critique is meant to be constructive, it must meet certain criteria.
Are all faith practices alike? The answer to that question is Yes…and No. Dodging the question, you ask… not really. I have spent the better part of my life questioning and searching, and the last ten years in intense research to discover that answer.
Didn't Know How Much I Didn't Know
In the process of my research for my books, I learned a very valuable thing: I did not know how much I did not know! We’ve all been taught things by family, friends, spiritual leaders…and many times, because we respect that person, we accept those statements as Truth without question.
But what we don’t realize is that sometimes those people have been unknowingly mislead themselves. Not in a purposeful or vindictive way...it just happens. We live, interact, hear and discuss things casually and pass on our views that have been formed over time by our associations and life experiences. Unfortunately, misinformation can inadvertently be spread and multiplied by this totally innocent approach to “truth.”
As I was researching, I realized in a very profound way that many things I had heard or been taught were NOT true. I also learned through many long hours of follow-through, that many things written on the “all knowing” Internet were NOT true.
Watch the Life They Lead
If you really want to know what others believe, go to their main website, talk to real people who live that faith practice, and most importantly, watch what kind of example they lead with.
While I was writing this week’s newsletter, I realized that the forces of division had not taken a summer break this year. While I was entertaining my kids during our eighth consecutive daddy-summer-camp, the steady drumbeat of anger, fear, and contempt in public discourse seemed to grow louder—if that’s even possible.
Everyone Thinks They Are On the Right Side of History
As emotions have gotten hotter, everyone seems to assume that they are on the right side of history, that their ideological position is the only one that is correct and that everyone else is mistaken. People stand on the opposite sides of widening chasms in both religion and politics and shout: “They started it! They are wrong!”
Who Will Listen to the Bridge Builders?
In this type of atmosphere, people who suggest that we should build bridges and work towards harmony are often branded as delusional. “Peace is not in sight,” they say. “You have to fight for your right. Stay angry and outraged!”
It's a sad fact that peacemakers have historically been laughed at, scorned and shouted down. Fortunately for us, history is on the side of those who long for a state of civil discourse. Peace has prevailed more often than not… but it hasn’t come out of nowhere. Peace is usually the result of tireless work by those who are committed to it.
Humans are tribal beings. According to the social sciences, we have the ability to bond with approximately one to two hundred people. However, because of increased population and the reach of social media, the concept of the tribe has expanded.
Here is a partial list of different kinds of tribes that exist in our society in no particular order.
What do you do when someone spouts anger at you, drenches you in hate or shows utter contempt for everything you stand for? The instinctive response is to fight back, to meet fire with fire. But what is the spiritual response to the same situation? Martin Luther King Jr. echoed the Nazarene when he said: "Hate can never drive out hate, only love can do that."
Meeting hate with hate is natural but it leads to an escalation that is impossible to stop. Hate breeds hate breeds hate breeds hate.
Good People Giving Into Instinct
In the past few years, I have seen good people give into the instinct of anger over and over again. It’s a fine line that is easy to cross. Yes, it is true that resisting hateful, bigoted rhetoric is important, but once resistance turns into name-calling, once offense turns into spiteful indignation, once the outrage becomes the focal point rather than a temporary feeling, then the line between a loving and respectful response and an instinctive hateful response has been crossed.
I’ve seen good people, loving people, altruistic people cross this line. Heck, I’ve crossed the line in my mind more than once in the past couple of years—but I’ve refused to act on it publicly.
“They started it,” some may respond. That may be true. But a tit for tat reaction will only escalate tensions. If we want to deescalate the situation, a better response is needed.
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Our Vision and Primary Goal
We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We envision a world where people have access to strategies, methods and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge building across divides. To us, the term 'interfaith' means the continual improvement of interrelations between people who strongly believe in different worldviews. Our primary goal is to support and supplement new and ongoing efforts.
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©Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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