June 23, 2016

An Open Letter to Human Beings Everywhere, in the Wake of Tragedy.


This past week has been a tough one for our country—one of the toughest yet.

We experienced one of the largest mass shootings in our nation’s history, multiple smaller shootings no less filled with hate and the unexpected and gruesome death of a child. 

Whenever something horrific happens, we have this instinctive urge to draw a box around it. To confine it. To point fingers. To separate ourselves from it. To make holier-than-thou judgments and to reduce those we deem responsible into nothing more than a collection of labels—terrorist, bigot, racist, Muslim, Christian, psychopath, extremist, criminal.

We dehumanize people. We turn a blind eye to any similarities they might bear to ourselves so that there could never be any comparisons drawn between “us” and “them.” We try to convince ourselves that “we” could never be anything like “those people.”

What we’re doing is creating distance, so that we don’t have to bear the responsibility. So that we can continue to feel good about ourselves and go on living in our made-up, oversimplified illusion of a black and white, good and bad world. So that we can make sense of it, define it, avoid internalizing the weight of it and letting it transform into guilt.

This instinct is natural, evolutionary and protective—designed to keep both our physical bodies and our beloved self-image safe. But the truth is, there isn’t really anything separate about it. We recognize tragedy, but we don’t take ownership. But it is ours. All of ours.

We have to ask ourselves: “What must’ve happened to these people to make them do something like this?” Because no one is born evil. This is the world we live in and it’s a world we’ve created, so if it’s terrible and tragic and hateful, it’s because we made it so. Humanity is humanity and they are us and we are them. Pretending otherwise is a disservice to ourselves and to this world.

We are, after all, in this together. And in the wake of such massive heartbreak, there are still two things I know to be true:

  1. People are inherently good.
  2. In the end, there is only love.

Every time we experience great tragedy, one of two things can happen: it can divide us further or it can bring us together. Events like the Orlando shooting are polarizing. I’ve seen people fiercely reject it, casting blame onto a specific group they see as different from themselves and making binary judgment calls to separate themselves from the pain, not just of the victims but also of the offenders. But I’ve also seen people banding together, moving out past rights and wrongs into a field of untouchable peace and compassion—and these people will become stronger, more truthful and more in touch with what it is to be human because of it. And when you boil this decision down to its very core, we are essentially choosing fear or we are choosing love.

I hope you’ll choose love. And togetherness. And peace. And that you’ll choose to own this. Because this love will save us. It’s the only thing that ever could.

The most peaceful, loving thing we can do for this world is to actively cultivate personal peace and love.

A love so strong it can’t help but overflow into every interaction we have.

A love so steadfast that it makes exceptions for no one and nothing—even the most cruel and inhumane manifestations of hate.

A love so bright that it cannot be dimmed by even the most personal and pervasive of attacks on humanity.

A love that cannot be diminished no matter how many times it is undermined or challenged or taken advantage of.

A love that stands strong in the face of horror and never turns its back.

A love that could never abandon someone in their darkest of times, for it knows that now is the time it’s needed most.

Let’s redirect all the energy we squander—in search of validation, in an effort to contain and convert the “bad guys,” in resistance of what is different or unfamiliar or uncomfortable, in ensuring the supremacy of our belief systems and in eliminating any threats to that supremacy, in the fight for what we’ve arbitrarily designated to be “right” over what is peaceful—into limitless, uncompromising, omnipotent love that shares itself with reckless abandon and without discretion.

I truly believe that if every single person on this planet knew deep, unconditional, all-encompassing love, there would be no suffering, no murder, no jealousy, no sabotage, no fear, no hate. It’s been said that most hate crimes are committed by someone with personal ties to the group of people they victimize, and often that tie is actually within. They are expressing their inability to love that part of who they are by attacking it in others. It’s a defense mechanism.

So please, please take time to heal yourself. Actively work to heal whatever soft spots exist on your heart that you may not have consciously realized were there. Heal them before they become a problem that affects our world. Because the world needs you to.

What is broken in one, is broken in all. And when we heal ourselves, we heal this world.


Author: Jessica Johnson

Image: LK/Flickr

Editors: Nicole Cameron; Yoli Ramazzina

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