Grand Canyon 004

We are emotion driven beings. All animals are. We seek safety by our nature and react to whatever enhances or threatens safety. Emotions are contagious, just like a virus or bacteria. We can pay forward kindness. We can engender anger. Anger can be seen as a secondary emotion. It kicks in when we are feeling helpless or threatened or in some kind of danger. Anger gets our adrenalin and cortisol going so that we can fight back or run away and have some sense of control of our fate. Our alarm system acts quickly. It has to. When our species was young and we were in danger of being a bigger animal’s dinner, speed of recognizing danger and reacting was paramount for survival. We are still wired that way. It can be hard to control that anger. Often wrath is not met with soft answers, and cheeks are not turned.

We can work on that with focused attention and meditation and mindfulness – anything that tends to get the hot emotional part of ourselves more connected to our cold rational thinking part of ourselves. Cold cognition is slow and takes a lot of energy compared to the almost instantaneous reactive part. Rationality loses out in the heat of the moment.

Those who are constantly angry and abusive and are bullies typically are afraid and insecure. Or they are good showmen who are instilling fear to manipulate others, to get power and usually money, too. They may be pundits in the various media, elected people, preachers, abusive significant others or just ourselves in those moments when we feel the need to be in control or to feel better than someone or something else. At least we are not those people. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

So when you see someone ridiculing others whether from a press conference, a pulpit, or in social media, remember the words of Dan Pearce in Single Dad Laughing – “People who love themselves, don’t hurt other people. The more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer.” We can learn from the Zhuangzi that when you realize the interconnectedness of all things and that you are part of an infinite whole, you don’t intentionally do harm. To do so is to harm yourself.

It is especially easy to do harm these days of social media as pointed out in a Science Focus article by Amy Fleming called “Why social media makes us so angry, and what you can do about it.” Anonymity makes it easier to do harm. Years ago our local newspaper started a page called “The Last Word.” It is a page where people can call in or email in whatever they think about something regardless of how informed or uninformed they may be. And it is all anonymous.  It was Twitter before there was a Twitter, though the editors apparently do moderate it to a degree. The comments take up the whole back page and sometimes another page as well. I usually don’t read it. If you can’t put your name to it, keep it to yourself. When I do look at it, it has a lot of the character of Twitter. There was a study years ago monitoring whether people pay for the coffee in an office breakroom. People were more likely to pay when there was a picture of eyes watching them posted on the wall. When we realize everything is all connected, we know there are eyes of a sort always watching, for whatever we do will flow out for better or worse like the ripples from a stone thrown into a pond. The stone metaphor is a good one. When we feel the need to perform the deed of throwing stones, let us only do so when we are without sin ourselves as Jesus said, for we are known by our deeds and our works. Be well and safe in these times.