How do we respond to unspeakable violence?
This week begins with mourning over the horrendous events in neighbouring New Zealand. An assault on a peaceful place of worship in a loving nation is affronting in the highest measure. How do we respond? What can we do? It’s too easy to feel helpless. It’s too easy to be angry. We can take positive concrete action. We can show leadership even in the most terrible of circumstances. Let’s do that.
Where do we start?
As a Boundless Leader, it is always with compassion. According to dictionary.com, compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
How do we alleviate the suffering of families who have lost loved ones, children, a spouse, a friend, while they were at peaceful prayer?
I’m not sure we can do much to ease their pain individually. Expressions of sorrow show solidarity in moving through the pain with them.
What we can do is to raise consciousness to a higher level around us. To speak not in anger, but from love. To be guided by the question “What would LOVE do?” is a useful phrase. If we can use that as a filter for our attitude, our actions, then we can elevate the energy around us and improve our daily interactions.
It’s not always easy. I was waiting at the doctor’s this weekend with a burst eardrum from a middle ear infection. I was in pain, and not that patient. I grumbled at the reception staff, and I gave the doctor attitude for keeping me waiting (it turns out she had called me twice but because of my blocked ear I did not hear her. #irony). I was not the best version of myself.
Pain does that to us: it draws us down to defensive and aggressive places. We lash out at those around us like a wounded animal, protecting ourselves from further injury.
I can’t help wonder at the shooter. What led a young man to initiate such a violent act? There are of course plenty of theories: he came from a broken home with an absent father who died nine years ago. He was radicalised by charismatic and influential right wing militants. Perhaps he found purpose and meaning in the ‘fight’ for white supremacy. We can imagine a life absent of guidance, full of pain and frustration, seeing a way to make something of himself. The wretchedness of his choices points to twisted emotions.
We can’t know the dark corners of this young man’s heart. It is beyond what most of us experience and have come across.
What we can do is reach out to others. Let kindness guide our actions.
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama
Kindness is a smile at a stranger. Kindness is saying thank you to someone who does a service for you. Kindness is checking on your neighbour. Kindness is picking up a scrap of rubbish that blows across your path.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~ Aesop
An act of kindness may shift someone’s experience of their day. It may also shift ours too! Being gentle and kind in the world is a beautiful way to be.
Perhaps you have a young man or young girl in your life who is struggling. Teenage years can be a rough ride. Ask them how they are. Show interest in them. Share something that is meaningful to you with them.
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are other things too: campaign to restrict gun access, express the benefits of unity over divisiveness, help those who reject others see that it’s safe to accept difference and that together is better. Support charities like Menslink that offer mentoring and support to troubled young men.
There is much we can do. Start with compassion. Ask ‘what would love do?’ Be kind to others.
What do you think? What actions can we take to raise kindness and compassion in the world?
P.S. And when you’re ready, here are three ways I can help:
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