We live in challenging times. Public discord is on the rise. Hate groups that used to lurk in the shadows are pushing their way into the mainstream. Political and ideological differences that have separated us for years are splitting us farther and farther apart. America, it appears, is beginning to unravel at the seams – and globally things don’t look much better. What can we as ordinary individuals do to make a difference? How do we turn this tide?
For nearly 20 years, I have been a student of compassion. I have even written about it before in this blog. I believe in the transformative power of compassion to improve lives and create a more loving and tolerant society. Over time, I’ve come to see that when combined with a few other key ingredients, it can be used to help create a more civil and just society. I believe that the way we treat one another matters. In both large and small ways, the way we view and interact with each other makes a difference in how our societies function and how the world moves.
In order to create a more civil society – one rooted in equality and valuing the life of every person – there are four vital ingredients. If everyone from the average citizen through heads of state would think of and interact with one another using these four important principles, we could reshape the world into one comprised of peace and mutual understanding.
These principles are:
Each principle builds upon the previous one so that when taken in order they create a powerful force for good.
First, we need to start from a place of respect. We must commit ourselves to valuing the worth and dignity of each individual being. Mutual respect lays a foundation upon which we can build mutual understanding. Without respect, people’s voices cannot be heard. When we work to respect one another, we can achieve tolerance and even acceptance of one another.
Next, we must strive for empathy. By laboring to put ourselves in the shoes of “the other,” we can develop real connection that simply is not possible when we distance ourselves from one another. Empathy is the spark that ignites the flame of compassion.
This brings us to compassion. To live is to suffer. When we connect with the suffering that each of us experiences, it motivates us to want to relieve that suffering. And, when we feel deep compassion for each other’s suffering, it is not possible for us to want to hurt one another.
Finally, there is kindness. When we treat each other with mutual kindness great things are possible. In time, trust develops out of kindness as well as genuine care and concern.
When combined, these principles create a single word: RECK.
Applied universally, this one word could save the world.
Respect, Empathy, Compassion, Kindness.
Make them your mantra. Make them your prayer. Make them your practice.
You’ll be surprised how quickly they can change your life and the world around you.
The concept is simple. The practice is hard. The results make it all worthwhile.
Give it a try and report back. I welcome your feedback.