The truth is, I've been sitting on this post for a while. I've jotted down pages and pages of thoughts, but they all felt more like unorganized rants than anything cohesive and ultimately productive. Well, I'm tired of trying to get it right. It's time to share it. It's time to get it out, organized or not. I think, I hope, my message will resonate.
When attempting to solve a problem, we can choose to look at the leaves, the branches, the trunk, or the root.
Most people focus on the leaves - and even worse, not even their own leaves, but those of others - by blaming, complaining, and creating enemies. It's a never-ending game of "I'm right and they're wrong! We're good and they're evil."
However, in order to solve any systemic problem, we need to address our own, individual root. That's the only true path to the positive change we all seek.
There's no such thing as righteous anger
For those seeking positive change, whether it be within yourself, within the community, or within the world, anger is always dead end.
You might think anger propels you to do good, but really, it propels you to spread hate, and to act out of your own selfish need to feel better. Actions that stem from your individual need to feel better are rarely, if ever, the right actions needed to solve a larger problem.
Take the example of a political activist who can't handle the actions of the opposing party.
(When you can't handle something, it means an event outside is so disturbing to you, that you can't even witness it without getting upset.)
When the activist goes to take action, those very actions stem from not being able to handle the situation. Because they can't handle or accept the current reality, their subsequent actions are just re-actions driven by their own fear and anger. This is destructive. (If you need proof, look at any issue we face as a society today).
If you're angry at people mistreating the environment, all you have now is more anger with which to pollute the environment. It's understandable to feel anger, but don't let that anger drive your attempt to solve the problem. Further down, I propose a strategy on how to deal with your own anger and take affective action.
Understand the predicament we're in
When you begin to understand the workings of the mind, you realize the futility and danger of any conviction you might hold about other people.
By definition, your strong opinion about others creates more division, and division is what causes problems.
When you understand the nature of the human ego, you realize that for as long as you play in the realm of the mind, there will never be a true solution. The mind seeks conflict. It plays the game of right and wrong.
As hard as you defend your position, someone else is defending theirs equally as hard. When you understand how dangerous it is to hold a mental position of such strength, you realize that maybe you're playing the wrong game.
The ego seeks to create enemies. It seeks to destroy. It doesn't matter if you think you're fighting for a noble cause. Hitler felt he was fighting for a noble cause. The problem isn't about morality. It's about knowing that for as long as you're identified with the patterns of your mind, problems can never truly be solved at their root. Wars, genocides, and dictators will always exist until we awaken to this truth.
If you can't create harmony within yourself, how do you expect there to be harmony in the entire world? If you can't find peace within, what right do you have to complain that there's no peace on Earth?
Remember we all have one critical thing in common: we're just trying to be okay inside, trying to have a pleasant experience of life. That's the commonality in the human experience.
He who makes an enemy out of the other side will never solve the problem.
Accept the way things are
Accepting something does not mean leaving it the way it is. People hear the word "acceptance" and somehow think it means passivity or ignorance. The truth is, ignorance is thinking your anger is going to solve a problem.
Acceptance means acknowledging what is. If you're not willing to admit that things are the way they are, then you have no right to step into the world and try to solve problems, because you'll only be acting out of your individual, selfish need to feel better. What your ego needs is vastly different than what the situation calls for.
When we accept that things are the way they are, we can then step into the problem with a clearer head, free from our egoic and reactionary motivations.
If a parent can't accept the fact that their child is screaming, then any action they take will be out of their own inability to handle the situation. They might hit the child, ignore it, or scream at it.
By contrast, a parent who starts by accepting the fact that this is their child, and children throw tantrums, can then proceed to handle the situation with love and compassion.
It's the same with any political, environmental, or social issue. If you can't even accept that something is the way it is, then you're only capable of reacting to the problem, as opposed to taking the right action.
The root of all of evil is believing things are evil in the first place.
The only path to true harmony and contentment in our world is through change within each and every individual. Everything else merely addresses the symptoms to a problem, or oftentimes, creates more problems, as we're so familiar with in our political climate.
A signal to work on ourselves
When someone else says or does something that makes us angry, is this not the ultimate form of slavery? They might not have legal ownership of our bodies, but they have complete power over our states of minds. If we can't even go about our days without other people's actions and opinions upsetting us, then what good are we in solving a problem?
If we can't prevent the one thing we actually do control - our inner state - from going south, is this not a glaring signal to work on ourselves before trying to fix others?
In the case of climate change, making an enemy out of the "nonbelievers" is not productive action. Not because you're wrong (it's not about who's right and who's wrong), but because you're now making other people the problem.
For as long as we create enemies and blame the other side, we will forever be at odds.
So what's the right way to deal with problems in the world?
It's completely natural to experience anger when you see injustice. However, if your actions and attempts to address the injustice are then guided by that anger, you're of no use.
Start noticing what upsets you. That's where you need to work on yourself. Those are the areas for which you need to look within.
My suggestion is to relax in the face of that anger, give it room to pass, and then take action.
When you feel the anger, take a moment to pause and keep it to yourself. Don't shove it back down. Just let it pass through. Breathe. Relax. Give it room to come up. Then, when you're more clear-headed, you can take constructive action.
After you've paused and breathed, see if your action now is different than what it would've been if you reacted immediately.
The difference between anger-driven action and love-driven action is that anger just dumps more anger. The nature of conflict is that people are living in their minds. No mind will win over the other. As long as there are beliefs, there will always be opposites, no matter how extreme they are.
Rather than trying to win people over through your anger and apparent logic, let that stuff go. Relax in the face of it. You don't want to be coming into the world with that junk. No one's better off for it. It just ignites other people's anger, both the people on your side (who share your anger) and those angry against you!
An experiment to try
Let's take a situation that you deem to be a problem in the world. Feel free to pick. Some people go for the environment, others for animal rights, some for gun control, others for anti-bullying, and some for equal treatment in the workplace. There's a plethora of worldly affairs that cause people great distress. For now, pick the one that disturbs you the most . . .
Got it in your mind?
Good . . . Now think about this problem and all the damage it causes. Think about the people it hurts - maybe those close to your heart - and how sad or angry it makes you. Feel the frustration, see the enemy, think about how much people are suffering because of the greed and ignorance of others.
Are you starting to feel sad? Angry? Frustrated? Defeated?
What feeling hits you the hardest? Feel it deeply.
Now with that feeling present in your heart, and the related thoughts present in your mind, imagine a solution that would take care of the problem. Where does your mind go?
Do your thoughts tell you that someone else is the problem? Do you immediately identify a group of "others" that are to blame? Perhaps you identify an enemy? Do you feel that "if those people just did this one thing," then the problem would be solved?" Or maybe you feel that no one is to blame, and that the human race is doomed?
You see, with all of these thoughts come great disturbance within ourselves. If your actions are then driven by these feelings of distress, then you're really just putting more negativity into the world. This is what everybody's doing. This is why there's little progress on any societal issue.
We must learn to handle reality
Not being able to handle something is a sign that you're not okay with reality. And when you're not okay with reality, you try to change it so that you are okay. Effectively, you're no longer even dealing with the problem, as you're just trying to be okay inside.
Whatever action you take - no matter how noble it may appear to others (or to yourself) - is really just a way for you as an individual to feel better. This only makes the outer situation worse.
For every hateful comment you put out in the world, there will be an equal and opposite force back. That's cause and effect. That is karma. It may not manifest in the same way that you put it into the world, but it will carry the same energy. It doesn't matter if you think you're righting a wrong by calling out an enemy.
The simple act of calling out an enemy because they're wrong implies that you're right, which creates duality, and duality creates conflict.
Instead of creating duality, rid yourself of it. I invite you to go within and first clean up your own inner environment. How can you expect the outer environment to not have problems if you can't even clean your inner environment?
A final message of love
By now, I hope you realize that spreading anger leads to more anger. Acting out of hate for others will only ignite them to do the same.
It's never a question about who's right and who's wrong. Instead, it's about recognizing that by very nature of spewing out hate, other people will spew it back.
That's why I've never been interested in complaining on social media. If you have nothing productive to say yet wish for change, saying it will not help. In fact, it will hurt.
This doesn't mean we can't interact with the world and solve problems. It doesn't mean we can't continue to fight for noble causes. But let's fight with love and compassion, not anger.
Let's interact with the world in a way where we're not trying to fix our mess inside. Let's clean up that mess so that we can be level-headed and approach the world with no intention other than to share our love and light.
Please focus on yourself. Once you're coming from a place of love, then interact with the world, inspire people, educate your friends, but do it based on facts and what's true, not on personal preferences. If you come simply from emotion and a place of anger or hate, then unfortunately for you, and the people who receive your message, more anger and hate will ensue.
As long as someone has the power to make you angry, you have very little chance of using that anger to create meaningful reform.
Love is the way through. Compassion is the road to freedom.
Live with substance!