A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

WHY I DO NOT HATE 

I warn you this post will touch on subjects that are not that pleasant to discuss. It is not the point of this website to delve into the realm of politics or any controversial topics, but sometimes they provide us with the opportunity to shine the light on ways we can improve both ourselves and the world. This is one of those opportunities. I caution that at first this post may sound negative and depressing, but I challenge the reader to stick with me until the end to find the message of hope.

The other night my lady and I saw the movie The Promise. A very fine movie with a very important message. The movie is a love story told with the backdrop of the Armenian genocide. During the first World War Turkey, who sided with Germany, took the lives of almost 2 million Armenians. Perhaps you may have not heard of this until now. There are very good reasons why. First, Turkey has never admitted to this atrocity and claims all of those lives were lost during a “Voluntary relocation”. I am not sure about you, but I have never heard of 2 million volunteering to move at the same time. Another reason you may not have heard of the lose of all of these innocent men, women and children is because another country that has refused to officially recognize this event in history is the United States of America. Why? Quite simply, they need the use of air bases in Turkey for their interests in the middle east. Hearing these facts and knowing I am Armenian one may assume I hate, or have a prejudice against Turkish people. I do not. I have a friend named George. He owns an ice cream stand with the best ice cream I have tasted. We often laugh and I enjoy supporting his endeavors. He is Turkish.

In the Second World War we are all too familiar with the tragic loss of the lives of 6 million of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Innocent victims who gave their lives for nothing more than their spiritual beliefs. I am not Jewish, but I feel the anguish of what their people went through, and in many ways, are still going through.

That was still not the largest genocide in history. In the course of the founding of the country I live in 100 million, yes you read that number correct, Native Americans were killed in the name of civilization and expansion. Most of the ‘killers’ in this case were Christians who thought they were claiming lands from a less deserving people. They included not just the military who fired shots, but politicians who starved out innocent families after forcibly relocating them. If this all sounds a bit contrived I invite you to read the book Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee or study the trail of tears.

Why is this not part of the history we are taught in schools? One, patriotism. It would be hard for some to love a country knowing some of the terrible things that occurred in it’s founding. Also, the ones who win the wars write the books to teach the people. Often decedents of the very people who committed these acts are the ones teaching our children. Being that I am also Native American one could assume I harbor ill will against my own country or people who belong to the faith that murdered many of my ancestors. I do not. My friend Cari is a devout Christian who I feel honored to call my friend. Cari and I not only have healthy discussions on the differences in our beliefs, but how we can use both to help make the world a better place.

So, the question you may be asking yourself is why, or more to the point, how can I not harbor any ill will against any of these groups? There are several reasons I would like to share with you and tell you what you can do if you find yourself the victim of hate or racial discrimination. Believe or not, on occasion I still am.

The first reason I have nothing but love for these people is forgiveness. People often view forgiveness as a weakness. It is quite the opposite. To suffer at the hands of others or to be openly and unfairly judged based on your faith, race, religion or any such trait and to be able to forgive takes far more courage and strength than to continue the cycle of hate. More importantly, forgiveness is the gift you give yourself. This holds true for may reasons as well. When you hold hate and anger in your heart it not only steals your joy and slowly kills your spirit, but actually has many negative physical effects as well.

When you close your heart to people because they are different from you, or because they hurt you it can cost you the ability to get to know a great many wonderful people. When this is done on a large scale as mentioned in the examples above we lose even more. In the movie I mentioned one of the main characters is a promising medical student. He is very talented and has a natural passion for healing. That ability goes unused for many years simply because of the nationality he happens to be. His imprisonment was not only his loss, but a loss to all of those he could have been helping. Can you imagine if we had lost Albert Einstein to the Jewish holocaust? What would the world have all missed out on?

Another reason not to continue the cycle of hate is understanding. In the case of the three examples mentioned above there had been generations of teaching to masses of people to learn to hate, or at the very least think less of certain people. In most cases it stems from governments against other governments. Can you think of even some beliefs in your own family that you may not agree with? One of the greatest weapons now is knowledge. My grandfather taught me a great number of important things. I am going to quote him here the best I can remember. He told me “Never hate somebody you don’t fully understand. If you still dislike them, you still don’t fully understand them.” Getting to know all the different cultures on this beautiful planet can bring us a great deal of compassion. You do not have to agree with them, but understanding traditions and faith make it very difficult to keep any hate in your heart.

What if you find yourself victim of such ill will? Here is my sound advice I not only tell everyone in this situation, but follow myself – be the best version of yourself. You do this for several reasons. First, it shows the person’s ignorance for what it truly is. Second, you make the best representation of the very group they are persecuting. Frank Sinatra said it best when he said, “The best revenge is massive success.” Consider some of the famous Armenians (Cher and the Kardashians) or Native Americans (Johnny Depp and Chuck Norris). Now whether or not you enjoy these people’s talents they all have achieved a great deal of success.

Striving to learn why people learn to hate others with the passion they sometimes do has given me reasons to continue to be the best version of myself and to have compassion and seek understanding of those different than me. I ask you to pause and think of what we may have lost in the over 100 million lives that were unfairly taken in the examples above. Great doctors and people of healing? Great composers and musicians? The world will never know. What we do know is if we do not stop the cycle of hate we stand to lose a lot more. Do your part by fostering understanding and cooperation between all groups. Even if you disagree with someone, do your best not to talk ill of them personally and certainly whatever group they may belong to. It may seem like innocent gossip, but it is planting the seed of hatred that may grow into the examples above.

This may all seem very dark and negative, but the point is each one of us has the power to stop the cycle of hate and to turn the world around. The responsibility lies with all of us. In short, Love one another.

WHEN WE HAVE NO CONTROL..

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”

-Viktor Frankl

Often I am asked “How can I be expected to live a positive motivated life when I am surrounded by all these negative people at work?” or “How can I remain positive and motivated when my loved one just passed away?”  Again I am here to be the first to tell you this blog is not about being happy 100% of the time.  It is about being happier and being so more often.  There will be times in our lives that situations happen beyond our control.  That is when we are forced to grow.  When our emotional fortitude is strengthened. When we are forced to look for a deeper meaning than what lies on the surface.  You have heard the saying “We can’t control our circumstances we can just control how we react to them”  As the quote above indicates there are times when there will be nothing we can do to change our situations.  Sure you could always quit your job and go looking for another.  You better not be a single parent or like eating very much though.  Once a loved one has passed on there is nothing we can do to bring them back.  That quote actually came from the author of a book entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning”.  Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in a Nazi death camp with his family.  He was spared from the gas chambers, but had the terrible job of removing all of the dead bodies.  Some of which were his friends and relatives.  Now I realize this may not be all that inspiring, but my point is very few of us face a situation that tough.  This man did.  He knew that he could not single-handedly change that situation.  What he could do was change what it meant in his own mind.  He used his goal of being able to survive to be able to tell his story to both prevent something that terrible from happening again as well as to show others they have the power to impart meaning to any situation they face.  So next time life gives us a challenge, remember it is not only our chance to grow, but our chance to look for the beauty, to look for the empowering meaning.