Hate vs Tolerance

My first thought after hearing about the massacre in France was, tolerance. We cannot change the hate in the world, but we do have the power to change our feelings toward and thoughts of those with whom we are at odds. Each person who does their part creates a ripple effect that can eventually spread throughout the world.
I recently watched Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce and his crusade to abolish slavery. He had few supporters at first. Slavery had become a widely accepted practice throughout the world. Wilberforce knew it was wrong and spoke out against it. He was just one man, but he was not alone. The band of abolitionists grew and of course we know now how it all played out.
We will never change anything in this world as long as the factions are motivated by hate. We will only create change when our motivations come from a tender place within. A place that seeks to understand why a person might think or act the way they do. A place that sees people as individuals not as stereotypes. A place that seeks to mend not destroy. Few of my readers live lives remotely close to Charlie Hebdo’s. We are not on the front lines of political battles. So you might think, “What does any of this have to do with me?” A lot!
Think about the way you react to a post you don’t like on Facebook, a tweet, an email, a comment. How do you respond to people’s views about hot button topics like Gun Control, the environment, abortion, health care reform, immigration? Do you get angry at the person because they don’t agree with you? Next time this happens, step back for a moment. Breathe. Then seek to understand this person and why she believes as she does. Your job is not to force another to see your point of view. You job is to seek to understand. To really listen and to acknowledge you have heard her point.
When we take this stance we remove a lot of the hot anger that can sever a connection with a person. Perhaps it will set the stage for actual dialogue rather than accusations and profanity that are rarely productive. Remember your job is not to change but to listen and understand. It may seem contrary to your mission: to spread your beliefs to perhaps create change. But has anyone been sincerely won over to another way of thinking through anger?

What's Your Wall?

In the world of change, we often hit a wall of sorts. The place where we think, “I can’t do this!” The task or path seems far too difficult and sometimes we quit. There’s a story in the Bible of a man who goes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells the man a few things and the man says he’s done them. Then Jesus says, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” The man walked away with sadness because he didn’t think he could do that…he hit his wall.
What is your wall? Is it setting the alarm earlier so you can exercise, have a little quiet time to yourself or be on time? Is it getting off the couch so you can tackle your pile of paper, clean your house, do your laundry or even cook yourself a healthy meal? Is it ridding your life of alcohol, drugs or unhealthy relationships? In order to create change in our lives we have to take that big step at some point in our journey where we do what we need to do in order to live a healthy, balanced, more satisfying life.
The “can’ts” aren’t real by the way. They are just lies that we believe to be truth. Think about your “can’t.” Now ask yourself why you believe it’s true. Challenge the can’t. I can get up early, I can organize my paper piles, I can stop buying unhealthy food. Look at your history. You have overcome obstacles and can’ts to get where you are today. Build on your strengths to move forward and overcome this latest “can’t” and start telling yourself you can!
You will likely need support in your journey. Get involved with a group of people who are tackling their own “can’ts”. You may need the help of a professional trainer, organizer, weight-loss counselor, coach or therapist. There are many resources out there to help you. Maybe the first step will be getting the support you need so you can create change and get over the wall.

The Angry Driver

We do it often. We’re driving along and some other driver does something we don’t like so we blame. It’s much easier. It seems as though it’s a reflex we don’t even need to think about. It usually feels good in the moment but it is poison to our body. Does this sound familiar: The car in front of me is going so slow. “What’s wrong with you? You shouldn’t have a license! Idiot!” I yell at the driver in front of me. A person I don’t even know. A situation I don’t fully understand. I make assumptions about this person. Assumptions that could be wrong and assumptions that fuel my anger. In this case, this kind of anger is not helpful. The anger fuels blame. Generally, there is nothing I can do that is both legal and healthy to solve this problem.
So, what do we do? Take a slow, deep breath and stop blaming the other person. If it’s a car that is driving slower than you would like, own that you want to be going faster. If you can’t safely and legally pass the car, then start letting this situation go. You might say things like, “I have no idea what’s going on with the other person but the fact is I must slow down to match his speed. I’m mad because I want to go faster and I can’t. Am I mad because I’m late? I better own that. I’m late. It’s my fault that I didn’t leave early enough to allow for slow traffic.” This will usually calm your heart rate and you will back off from the car in front of you. A slower heart rate is better for your general health and you will arrive at your destination relaxed instead of hyped up on adrenaline.
Whatever the situation, ask yourself if you have any control that is both legal and healthy (beating someone up, shooting someone, ramming into their car or getting super close, yelling profanities at people, blaming, shaming…fall into the category or either not legal and/or not healthy). If you have good options, take them, like waiting for a safe opportunity to pass the car (without staring down or flipping off the driver). Own your anger and let it go. These are often situations where we have little control. They simply aren’t worth losing points on our health meter.
If you are unable, on your own, to stop being so angry with other drivers, it could be helpful to work with a coach or therapist to address your anger.

Letting Go of Anger

Last night my husband came home really late.  He has been working a lot this week.  I have a big day today and wanted to be well rested.  The clock read 11:22 when he came in the door.  Part of me wanted to lash out at him.  I was angry he was interrupting my plan.  Then it occurred to me that I could choose to be really angry with him, or I could choose to let it go.  When I went into the “let it go” place, I felt my body relax, tension disappeared, my breathing was easy, I felt lighter.  When I was feeling angry and resentful, I felt my muscles tightening, my head ache, my breathing was shallow and I did not feel good.  I focused on letting it go.  I breathed out the anger.  I noticed the anger wasn’t helping me and I couldn’t change the situation.  I was able to relax into the space of “it is what it is”.
The practice of releasing our anger is incredibly freeing.  When we are facing a situation we can’t change, we have the power to choose to let anger take over or release ourselves from it.  I’ll tell you from my own experience, I like being in my own skin best when I choose to let it go.