I grew up believing that reading a newspaper, especially a broadsheet, was highly regarded. Being in the know on current affairs was a societal requirement, and appearing in the news was something to aspire to.
I never thought I’d say this but I’m proud not to have read a single front page of any newspaper for years. Current affairs no longer inspire or excite me, and I never ever want to be in the news, for any reason. I have a very strong filter that prevents toxic news from entering my head and an acute radar that seeks news from real people about things that truly matter. To be clear, I’d love for this to be different, it’s not a great outcome for me.
Clearly I don’t live in a cave and social media gives me more than I want in terms of what’s trending for people. That’s the problem, the snippets I hear shut down my curiosity, I really do not want to enter into the mosh pit of hatred and bitterness that, more often than not, becomes the epicentre of the story. The story itself quickly becoming irrelevant as others add their own pain and suffering to the rapidly muddying floor.
I’ve always been a believer that there is no reason, ever, for not being nice. That kindness is the greatest gift and that we are all, regardless of how we identify ourselves, human beings, doing the best we can.
Am I naive? Possibly. I am also unfaltering in my beliefs so please understand, any attempt to persuade me otherwise is futile. Here’s why.
When I see someone who is angry (and sometimes, I am looking in the mirror) what I see is pain, deep tearing pain that is all-consuming. It doesn’t frighten me, it saddens me. I want to help the bearer of the anger feel ok again. It’s been the most persistent driver in my life.
When I see someone behaving in an unacceptable or unbearable way, I see someone so vulnerable to their emotions they have lost their way and is now suffering in the worst possible way. I believe that their behaviour is, for them, a solution that relieves the suffering. I want to show them there are other ways of being, that their emotions are not in control, that life doesn’t have to be so hard.
I surround myself with people who are in alignment with my values and I steadfastly support and do whatever I can to elevate their belief in themselves and their ability to make change for good. I have a dream that one day, the tribe that I thrive within will grow so large that it will become the current affair – yes, I’m aware of the irony. I have a vision of a world where, when people are struggling, there is an army of support on hand to get them back on their feet and that, most importantly, everyone knows they have what they need in order to be the best version of themselves.
An important distinction here is that I believe that there will always be human suffering, “to err is human” and therefore we will all have times of difficulty, pain and failure. What’s vital is that we create a community where we see a person’s suffering as their challenge to overcome and the role of the community is to support and encourage the growth and learning. Not smothering or rejecting. Not making them dependent on the community or afraid of being isolated from it. Not leaving anyone so removed from the community that they have to go to extreme lengths to feel connected to something, anything. Or worse, they abandon life because the pain has become too unbearable.
I also am a firm believer that we must stop relying on the media to tell us when someone is in trouble. We need to be popping in to see that neighbour, taking that friend for a long walk in nature, holding that loved one as they struggle with their pain. Acknowledging that stranger who shows kindness, being that stranger who shows compassion. It’s time to take responsibility for our communities, not because of some sense of civic duty but because a strong, thriving community is what we all crave at a cellular level.
So when you next see someone behaving in a way that doesn’t fit with your values, could you ask yourself – “how difficult must it be for that person to feel connected, if they have to go to those extremes in order to feel relief from their pain?”. Would you instead, find your compassion, your kindness and stay clear of the mosh pit? Your body and soul would thank you for it.