We are all, young adults and adults alike, most probably familiar with the often rhetorical question: “If not now, when?” We typically ask, suspecting the answer to be a resounding: “It’s now or never.” Given the state of our society, what with the fast pace, Hollywood’s obsession with all things negative and politicians flagrantly abusing their power, some would suggest that now we must honestly ask and answer this very question as it relates to changing the course of our civilization.
We have been told often that “as a man thinketh, so shall he be.” And several great thinkers have noted that in order to be a whole, consistent and mentally and emotionally healthy person we must be congruent. That is, our thoughts, feelings and behaviors must match up. Today we are inundated with images of violence and greed, and messages that promote indiscriminate sexual behaviors. Why from cooking shows to talent contests to games and music videos the order of the day is hostility toward each other. Young women and men are objectified and denigrated to the point of what once upon a time would have been absolute shame for both the victim and the assailant.
If certain studies are to be believed, we can assume that the imagery and messages we consistently consume will be in large part what we think about, and those thoughts will lead to feelings that will show up in the form of our emotions, which will then drive us to behave in corresponding ways. Given the connectedness between the mind, emotions and behavior of this model, it seems the obvious to simply change the way we see and think about ourselves and those around us.
With respect to social change it has been shown that if enough of us begin to execute a given behavior, the mass will inevitably follow. In fact, some suggest that the example is found in the very methods that seem to have caused the beginning of the moral and ethical shift we are now in the midst of. It is interesting, and perhaps ironic that Hollywood, Wall Street, Madison Avenue and certain members of the US Government have apparently used the saturation tactic to steer the minds of the mass to a place where human dignity, concern and righteous ways of living are simply passé
This writing is not to suggest that the days of old were in any way perfect; or that some among us haven’t always behaved in deplorable ways, inflicting horrible and unnecessary pain on the weak and the least among us. But it is to suggest that we have the power to at the very least, co-create an environment in which there is a balance of the forces. That is, we can craft a society in which for every message of greed, sexual promiscuity and/or the deliberate maligning of other human beings, there are also messages of love, kindness, the virtues of helping and supporting one another and the promotion of peace.
To successfully move toward a more loving society one of the things we must do is to calm and gentle ourselves; to slow down in a way that allows us to observe not just our environment and the others in it, but ourselves. Most of us are quite complex and operate from the standpoint of multiple selves, so the process of self-observation requires focused attention—attention that can not be had if one is consumed by life’s so called day-to-day pressures and general busyness.
We must get still and slow. Everything is in a minute. We microwave our meals. Our children are taught to take test, but the learning and education processes are nearly non-existent. And because we are such a material-based society, with colossal emphasis on getting and having, we are hardly taking the time get to know one another. Not knowing makes it easier to not care. And therein lays the absolute bottom line necessity for us to begin to take the time to look deeply at ourselves, those around us and our environments.
Forgiveness will also play a key role in creating any cultural shift we are able to bring about. Many of today’s adults have grown up knowing only the fast-paced and all too often I/me centered world; a world in which in some instances the main focus is on having, doing and getting. And in the course of feeding such a focus, children have been neglected and abused, lovers have been cheated on, prized possessions have been stolen and innocent people have been brutally hurt or even killed. Some of us have simply accepted these antics as ways of life and pressed on.
But the pain lingers and does in fact show up in the behaviors of the perpetrators, victims and by-standers alike. So the cycle begins. And a sequence of uncaring I/me centered actions can only be disrupted by forgiveness and the subsequent moving on in peace and love. We must learn and teach our children that, as Francis Bacon noted, “…a man who studies revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.”
Upon forgiveness one becomes free again, no longer enslaved by the inner voices of vengeance and/or victim-hood. Children and young people are free to live and grow unfettered by the weight of guilt and shame. They can move gracefully into their adulthood fully able to ensure the peace and well-being of those around them. Adults of all ages, upon forgiving themselves and others, will be able to correct misdeeds and work toward creating a more just world.
Together, in an atmosphere of forgiveness individual energies and dreams alchemize to create an environment where the very idea of harming or disrespecting oneself or another is unequivocally and instinctively rejected, just as our bodies would seek to regurgitate foreign or poisonous matter, and love is summoned to heal any urge to be unkind.
Some will say that we’re at that point of no return and that it is senseless, or worse, “Pollyannaish,” to attempt to alter the course of our culture. Many will even argue that the current expressions of greed, power, disrespect and disregard for one’s fellow human beings are merely signs of progress and that we are indeed simply existing in an environment in which only the fittest will survive.
But are “they” correct? Not necessarily. Based on much of the existing psycho-social theory, it stands to reason that if we thought more about love, we would feel more like love and we would, as healthy human beings, in our actions, behave more like love.