Friday, July 08, 2016

To Be Nice...Or Not To Be

With all of the information coming out about the shooter in Dallas along with everyone's opinions on whose lives matter, I can't help but make a few comments regarding the matter, or the other shootings  or acts of terror that we have heard about in detail over the past several years.

Perhaps it is my professional training and experience or even my spiritual and religious beliefs, I can't help but feel sad about what happened in Dallas. I will try to explain why this is on my mind.

I was raised in a home where my father was an Officer of the Law. Yes, his last name is Law and he was an Officer, as well. I see the irony...but, I digress. My dad did not bring his work home with him when I lived there. I knew he was a Cop. I knew what he did, but I did not know what dangers there were. He kept us protected from them. I knew there were problems in the cities where we lived and where he worked. However, he did not talk about them. I'm not saying we didn't know about them, he just assured us that all was well. He did not return home with stories that had cynical undertones about people who committed crimes. There was no talk about racial stereotyping, about religious stereotyping, or really anything of that matter. In fact, the one resounding rule he had for us regarding everybody was "Just Be Nice." He would remind us when we were upset with each other or others, including people who didn't like us for our religion (this happened more than once), our hair color (I was a redhead as a child and was called a "dirty little redhead"), or even bullies, he constantly reminded us to "Just Be Nice." I'm not saying that he was telling us to lie down and just take it. Because, there were times when we needed to fight our own battles. Even then, after it was all said and done, he instructed us to "Just Be Nice." That's it!

Now, to say how this applies to the shootings and acts of terror. At the end of the day, these violent acts can be reduced to simple things. Fear, anger, and hate. Those geeks out there know exactly what I'm talking about when I say Master Yoda taught "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering..." These things are all part of the dark side. It is consuming. It is addicting. It feels good to be angry, because we feel powerful, strong, and justified in our actions. Fear, anger, and hate are primal and are built into our midbrain, the powerful part of our brain that controls the fight, flight, and freeze responses. When that wakes up, reason disappears. Our prefrontal cortex becomes dormant and Amen to reason and logic!

Now, what does this have to do with the prior paragraph about my dad's rule? Giving in to fear, anger, and hate is easy. Just being nice is hard. It's never easy to be nice to someone who hurts you, whether they did it purposely or not. Being nice will always be the most difficult thing to do unless you make it a habit. Habits are behaviors that come naturally with practice and persistence. It requires choice, which requires your prefrontal cortex to be engaged. That means, learning to control and/or manage fear, anger, and hate. Those three emotions come in many forms, though. Each individual has to be aware of what form they take within themselves AND  how they express it AND how it affects others (I personally believe we are accountable for that). Once again, this requires work and in some cases, HARD WORK! Some of us have past experiences or even personality traits that may predispose us to being afraid, fearful, or even angry. That just means that life has given us some things that we can work on. That doesn't mean that the person is bad or just means that they have some hard work. However, results do come with hard work.

That's all for today.