War & Peace on Social Media
by Alexander Bell
The potential for friendship on this planet is phenomenal. We know that there are over 7 billion people alive on this beautiful planet, and just imagine how it would feel to know that every single one of them was a friend. Just imagine if you held no grievances towards even a single person on the planet; that you felt only good-will towards all living beings. Well, you can.
Now, I am not saying this is easy, because we are challenged on a daily basis to remain tolerant, understanding and compassionate with the people we interact with, both on social media and in the real world.
For many, it can be particularly tempting to slip into hostile communications on social media, because it is a place where so many opinions are shared, and often with people who do not even know us personally, so that people can react rudely or unkindly even to something which was intended to be positive and constructive.
If someone disagrees with your opinion on social media, they often think nothing of insulting you in a very confrontational way. But this is an ever-present danger with opinions. They divide people. Of course, if your opinions are popular ones then you may have more positive responses than negative, but there will always be people who disagree with you, and will tell you so. And when they do, how do you respond? Maturely and respectfully? Or does the communication degrade into childish insults, as our ego gets a grip on us and influences our responses?
These are the many tests we face in our communications with others, and especially with this being the age of communication. Never before have our words and our opinions been available to so many people worldwide, as they are now thanks to information technology and social media.
So now more than ever, we need to learn the art of maintaining harmonious communications, by putting our ego aside, being more tolerant of the opinions of others, and being humble enough to say, “What I think is not so important..”
Because in truth, what we think is not so important that we should let it create a sense of conflict between ourselves and another person. Inter-personal harmony should always be the priority, because we have to carry around the feelings that result from our communications with others. Depending on how we communicate, we can either carry around the positive feelings and the clear conscience that comes from being understanding and tolerant in our communications, or we can carry the feeling of agitation and hostility that comes from trying to be ‘right’ and trying to ‘win’ the communication by putting another person down, or by being cold and insensitive with our words. We can choose. Tolerance, humility and non-reactivity will always leave us with a greater feeling of peace.
We all know how it feels when our ego clashes with another ego, and we feel the desire to be right, the desire to ‘win the battle’. The ego becomes very controlling, very clever with words and intellect; it does anything not to be wrong, because the ego does not like to be the loser, especially the ego of intelligent and strong individuals. Such an ego will rarely back down, because it cannot accept what it perceives be a ‘defeat’. In this way, petty differences of opinion about the most insignificant of things can turn into very hostile exchanges, with vitriol flying back and forth between individuals, aggression and hatred bubbling over as the original issue is forgotten, and the desire to dominate and wound the ego of the opposing party becomes the priority.
How sad it is that this should ever occur, when there is always the potential for brotherly or sisterly respect and warmth to flow between individuals in every sphere of communication. Respect is the key word here, because even if warmth is not forthcoming, at least we can respect that this fellow human being has a need to be understood, tolerated and treated respectfully. This means honouring their beliefs, their perspective and their feelings. When, as a bare minimum, respect is present in all our communications we feel the deep benefit of this. Our conscience remains clear. To know we have been respectful of another human being gives us a feeling of decency, a feeling of goodness and maturity within ourselves, and we need to feel this way.
Most people know how it feels to leave things on a ‘bad note’. It is not good to be left with a feeling of bitterness, of resentment or even hatred. These are very destructive feelings, and they destroy our peace of mind as well as the potential for positive relationships. To know that you have not forgiven someone and that you still harbour ill-will towards them leaves an imprint in your heart which affects your ability to be truly peaceful and happy. Because it is something which is unresolved, it will come back to you, over and over again until you decide to forgive that person.
And to forgive someone is actually only a matter of deciding to stop punishing them. That is all. You do not need to ‘do’ anything. Just stop wishing bad things upon them. Wish them peace instead. Hope that they may experience freedom from their suffering, from their hostilities. As you do this, you free yourself from the suffering created by your own hostility towards them.
As we forgive people (including ourselves) and we release ourselves from the hostility that comes from the desire to punish and dominate, more peace comes into our heart. The enemies that we perceived we had, disappear. There comes a point where we realise that there is no-one towards whom we bear malice. There is no-one whom we wish suffering upon.
This is a wonderful realisation, because in a very tangible way we feel that our heart has been set free from anger and hatred. We see that our mind has been freed from judgement, so that it is more able to enjoy a sense of kinship with all people. We have realised the profound importance of harmony, within our mind and within our entire being. We have opened up the possibility for an all-pervading tolerance, understanding and compassion that encompasses every living being. This is evolution. This is maturity. This is wisdom.
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