Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

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We live in what can be a very aggressive world. Drivers honk their horns and yell at other drivers. People shout and carry on about politics. And, in the name of religion, misguided people commit all kinds of atrocities.

Our political discourse even promotes aggression. In the U.S., we are told that we need to have an “aggressive response” to illegal immigration. During our Congressional hearings, Congress people don’t ask salient questions. Instead, they rant wildly. And they are applauded for it.

In short, aggressive behavior has become an acceptable social norm. In fact, we have collectively decided that out-of-control, immature, and rude behavior is not only OK, but it is a sign of strength and leadership. And mature, gracious, controlled individuals are somehow weak.

The problem with making aggressive behavior socially acceptable is that this behavior is destroying our world. Around our globe, people abuse each other. Animals, children, women – no one is protected from our socially sanctioned aggression. And as a result, for many, the world is an awful place in which to live.

However, valuing aggression doesn’t make sense. We know intuitively that kind and gentle behavior is successful behavior, and that aggressive behavior leads to regret and failure. How do we know this?  Ask yourself what are your greatest regrets in life? They probably relate to the times that you acted rudely or aggressively, instead of behaving maturely. What have been the most beautiful moments in your life? They presumably occurred when you either felt loving toward someone, or someone treated you in a kind, gentle and compassionate manner.

Kindness and gentleness work. When we are kind and gentle, the world is objectively a better place for us and for everyone else. So, why do we place such a high value on aggressive, mean and rude behavior? Why do we elect individuals who are rude and aggressive? Why do we watch television shows and movies in which violence is glamorized? I wish I had an answer.

The only thing I know is that to turn this tide of aggressive behavior back, we need to change the character traits that we value. And we show what character traits we value by what we do, who we elect and what we watch on television.

For instance, we need to make clear to our children that aggressive, mean and rude behavior is unacceptable. Parents can be weak on that point. I’ve seen parents allow their children to be rude and aggressive toward each other. Their excuse is always, “Well, that is how siblings interact.” Really? The only thing a parent does by condoning such behavior is to send yet another problematic person into the world. It is lazy and irresponsible parenting.

We also need to stop watching television, movies and video games which glamorize violent behavior. There is a very short step between watching a certain type of behavior on the screen and doing it in real life. I will admit that I used to watch violent garbage myself. I watched every episode of The Sopranos when that show was on television. However, I look back now, and I think, “What an utter waste of time.” As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that while such shows may be entertaining, they have zero social value. So, why waste my time watching them? There are many better ways to spend my free time.  (If you are looking for positive viewing, consider watching my new favorite show on Netflix – The Kindness Diaries. You will not be disappointed. It is brilliant.)

We also need to send a message to our political leadership that rude, aggressive behavior is not what we consider to be real leadership. We need to start electing individuals with maturity. We need to give our vote to the people who exhibit kindness and compassion. In short, we need to stop electing noisy, arrogant individuals, on both sides of the political aisle.

And we need to ask ourselves the hard question: Do I treat every person that I encounter with kindness and respect? I do for the most part, but I also fail on occasion. I can lose my temper once in a while, and I can tell you that it does not feel good. I regret it whenever I become angry. I always wish that I had just ignored the offending behavior or remark and simply gone on with my day.

Kindness and gentleness are a state of being. And I don’t believe you have to be the Dalai Lama to achieve that state of being. You simply have to make a choice as to what you value. And if you value kindness and decency, all your actions should reflect that. Period.

None of us is able to be perfectly kind all the time. We are all human and, therefore, fallible. However, we need to value kindness and gentleness. Those character traits are the ones that we should aspire to possess.

This week, consider what it is that you value. If you value human decency and kindness, do your actions reflect that? Does your voting reflect that? Do your television and movie choices reflect that? If we want to live in a better world, we have to shift our values – and actions – to make that happen.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

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