,Many people tell me they struggle with faith and doubt God (or a higher power) when they see senseless death, tyranny, murder, and cruelty happen in the world. Maybe you have asked yourself questions like these, as you have watched the invasion of Ukraine happen:
Many of us are feeling pain, confusion, and fear, as the idea of a World War III becomes a possibility. We ask ourselves, “Could this actually happen”? If nuclear weapons are used, our planet and way of life could be destroyed. We are sickened by the thought and wish there was something we could do. All of these, are terrifying thoughts.
I’d like to share a couple ideas today that may help you fight the fear and find some sense of purpose or some solid ground right now. Here are some ideas to consider:
You only have two choices, trust or doubt, and you must choose one:
When horrific things happen, it is natural to doubt that the world is in God’s hands. It is normal to wonder if God is in charge, why He allows such things to happen? It’s normal to feel alone and unprotected, when you watch bad things happen to other people. But at the end of the day you have two mindset choices, you can trust or you can doubt, and what you choose matters.
Here are the options:
1) You can choose to trust God that nothing exists He did not create, for the purpose of our education. You can trust that if he allows bad things to happen there is meaning and purpose in them. You can choose to trust that though things look scary, He always has us safe in his hands and promises a perfect classroom journey for each soul. You can choose to see in tragedy we pull together and there is also an increase in love. You should never want tragedy to happen, and you should see it as horrible when it does, but you can still trust God to use this for our benefit in the end.
If you choose this mindset you will feel like you are standing on some solid ground and from this place, you will have more access to your love. You will have more to give others and you will feel stronger, wiser, and safer.
If you don’t consciously choose this mindset, you will subconsciously choose doubt.
2) Doubt says there is no purpose or meaning in what happens, that we live in a chaos state where we are not safe. If this is true you must worry about protecting yourself all the time, from threats. Doubt makes you believe that bad things just happen randomly and they have the power to take from our quality of life and make you lose the life you could have had.
If you choose this mindset (consciously or unconsciously) you will feel like there is no solid ground under you, and you will primarily be focused on protecting and promoting yourself. You will have less to give others, and you will feel vulnerable, deprived, and unsafe in the world. When you feel this way you can’t trust anyone and you have very little to give. You are too busy worrying about your safety.
Understand, there is no proof that either mindset is the true. So, whatever you choose, it will be a belief. You might even try both beliefs on and decide which mindset gives you a better quality of life and better relationships. In the end, you and you alone will determine how safe you feel in the world, what you trust, and what meaning you apply to your experiences. No one can make this choice for you.
In over 20+ years as a personal coach, I have watched many people process trauma, loss, and grief. I have seen them choose both options, and I can tell you, the overwhelming majority have created a better quality of life by choosing trust than doubt. But this is good time for you to think about what you will choose.
If you choose to see life as a perfect classroom and trust God that everything is here to teach us and grow us, here are some lessons we could be learning from war:
We love and value people we didn’t know we loved before:
Every time we watch tragedy hit a group of people in our world, our hearts go out to them and we discover that we love them. These are strangers we have never met nor loved before, but watching their pain, loss, courage, and strength, draws them into our awareness as brothers and sisters. We have a desire to help, stand up for them, and express our love and support in donations or in any way possible.
Think about any past disaster and you will see there is always an equal increase in love that follows it. These situations destroy and then they create love. These experiences connect us and remind us we are one with all our brothers, and that’s a beautiful and important thing to realize. I just wish we could hold onto it longer or find it without a tragedy happening. It would be worth our time to consider ways to keep a hold of these feelings from now on.
We clarify our values, when we see them disregarded:
There is nothing like having our deeply held values of freedom, democracy, empathy, kindness, and caring get trampled, to remind us how important they are. Suddenly we feel our values more deeply than we did last week. We are clear about what is right and wrong to us. We feel passion for what we believe and we seek for ways to live those values in a bigger way. Again, I wish it didn’t take tragedy to bring these to our values to our awareness, but we should take this chance to lock them in, and stand for them in a stronger way. You could use this experience to reaffirm your commitment to living your values and become a better person for them.
We are more connected than we think:
The pandemic taught us this lesson, that what happens to our brothers, far away from us, impacts us all. We are so connected it only takes weeks for a strain of Covid, in a village in China, to reach every corner of our world. When any of our brothers (even on another continent) are suffering, it is a world problem and one that we must all face together.
The invasion of Ukraine is about all of us. It’s a blow to our common values and it must be solved by us all coming together. I get a warm feeling when I watch other countries like Germany and Sweden step us to help Ukraine. I suddenly see them as my brothers too, and I love them for their commitment to peace in our world. It serves me to appreciate and honor their loving actions. These events make the world feel smaller and more connected in a good way. Viruses spread quickly, but so does love.
We all have the same worth, though we have different classrooms:
All the time, when I teach the principle of ‘all humans having the same value’, I get asked, “What about Hitler?” Everyone wants to know how I can see an evil dictator, who murdered millions of people, as having the same infinite value as the rest of us.
This is the thing, every problem on the planet can be traced back to belief ‘that some groups of people have more value than other groups of people’. This one idea has caused more human suffering than any other. It is what caused Hitler to do what he did.
Albert Einstein (one of the smartest humans that ever lived) said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” So, we cannot solve the problem of human suffering by believing any human has less or more value than any other. We must adopt another belief, an opposite one. The idea that all humans have the same intrinsic worth, no matter what they do, is an interesting alternative.
This doesn’t mean that a person’s choices don’t have consequences. You are co-creating with God, your perfect classroom with every choice you make and Hitler made some horrific choices with some horrific consequences. I believe he signed himself up for some pretty hard lessons, which he is probably still learning from. But, we must still see all humans as the same in value, or we create a slippery slope of exclusion. We go from excluding Hitler, to that neighbor we don’t like, to our mother-in-law who is truly difficult, and you soon right back where you started.
Seeing all human souls as having the same infinite, unchanging value just creates a lot more love, compassion, empathy, and understanding, than it’s opposite.
There is no source of ultimate truth about the value of human beings though. So again, this means whatever you decide to believe and however you decide to determine the value of human beings, it is belief not fact.
I promise though, if you try both beliefs on, you will find that choosing to see all humans as the same produces much more happiness, confidence, and love in your life, than judgment ever could.
Attacking other people is never justified:
This is a really interesting lesson that is coming from this experience that we could all benefit from. We are disgusted, right now, about the unfair, unjustified, attack of Ukraine. We are horrified that this innocent group of people, should be needlessly attacked, but the truth is, we all attack people all the time.
Not to murder or physically hurt them, but to protect ourselves from mistreatment, defend ourselves from perceived slights, and stand up against what we see as wrong behavior.
Just the other day I had a woman yell and swear at me (attack me) saying I wasn’t handling something correctly. It was uncalled for, inappropriate, and rude. I immediately told the people I was with, about this woman and her behavior (attacking her character). As I look back on that experience I can see we both felt justified to mistreat each other and we all do this to people all the time. If they do something we see as offensive, we feel perfectly justified in attacking them.
How often does this behavior show up in you?
This is a wonderful opportunity for us all to grow. If you are disgusted by Russia’s (and more accurately Putin’s) behavior, start by making sure you don’t justify attack in your world.
Make sure you see honor, respect, and love others, while maintaining healthy, respectful, boundaries. Respect is the only worthy response, towards any soul perfectly created by God. People will do things that bother you and hurt you, but you can always respond with humanity, empathy, and respect for whatever they are experiencing. It’s not easy, but it’s the behavior you would be most proud of later.
I am sure as this experience unfolds, there will be many more lessons on love that we can glean from it. The trick is to use every experience to make you better. There is not much most of us can do to assist our brothers being attacked on the other side of the world, but we can do this.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I heard someone say recently that kids today don't have the same level of empathy for others that we did back in our day. It got me wondering if this was true. So, I did some research and was surprised to find that science agrees.
According to an article in Scientific American, our country is experiencing a great decrease in empathy for other people, which the authors call an "empathy deficit." The article mentions "a recent Gallup poll showed that roughly a third of the country doesn't think there's a problem with race relations" and the authors suggest this shows that many people aren't grasping other people's perspectives. They blame technology, social media and the pandemic as major causes.
On the "Speaking of Psychology" podcast, episode 95, they also state that there's scientific research to back up the notion that Americans are caring less for others and more about themselves. Even Forbes magazine announced that the word for 2021 would be "empathy."
The work of researcher Helen Riess, author of the new book "The Empathy Effect," aims to show the "ability to connect empathically with others — to feel with them, to care about their well-being, and to act with compassion — is critical to our lives, helping us to get along, work more effectively, and thrive as a society," according to a Greater Good magazine article about the book.
The article goes on to say that Riess' work shows empathy involves our "ability to perceive others' feelings ... to imagine why someone might be feeling a certain way and to have concern for their welfare. Once empathy is activated, compassionate action is the most logical response."
We could all show more compassion for the other people around us. In my 20-plus years as a master life coach, I have found that fear has hardwired us toward judging others, especially people who are different from us. I think we have to fight a subconscious tendency toward judging and consciously choose to stretch the limits of our love and be empathetic.
Given that we are experiencing a decline in empathy, what can we do to strengthen our own empathy muscles and teach empathy to our children? Here are a few suggestions:
Pay more attention to other people's emotions. Notice people and what's going on with them. This requires you to be observant and get out of your own head and problems. It means putting the phones down and interacting with real people. Now, that we are coming out of a distanced and quarantined year, it's time to reconnect and pay more attention to the people around us.
Be a role model of empathy and compassion. Let kids see you caring about and speaking kindly about other people, especially those that are different from you. Make sure they see and hear you talk about these people with compassion, not judgment. If children hear you judge and gossip about others, they learn that it's OK to reject some people and see them as less than you. If you demonstrate a disregard for others, you teach children that other people don't matter. Make sure you are setting an example of compassion and caring toward all people.
Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. Let children hear you say "when you hit me, I feel unloved and it makes me sad," instead of "you shouldn't hit me." This helps them learn that actions affect other people and how they feel. Help them understand actions have consequences for others.
Listen better. Parents need to ask questions, listen and try to really understand what their child is feeling and experiencing, especially when they are upset or in trouble. If you aren't willing to take the time to care about their feelings and listen to them, you may be teaching them not to do this for other people. They might contribute to them growing up feeling they are less important themselves, in which case they will likely care less about others.
Help children understand that everyone has unchangeable value. It's important children learn the even though each person is different, sees the world differently, and makes different choices, other people have the same value as they do. Teach them that all humans, no matter the differences, have the same, intrinsic value and no one has more value or less value than anyone else. Teach them to see all humans as their equals, even though there are differences.
Help children recognize and name their own emotions as they experience them. If a child gets embarrassed at school, talk about what embarrassment feels like. Talk about how everyone experiences it sometimes and how they can now understand how others feel when they experience it. Help them understand that every experience gives you empathy to better understand other people. Every experience — even the negative ones — gives you knowledge that is a gift when it comes to understanding others.
Help children practice empathy. Show them how to think through what another person might be feeling and what they might need or appreciate right now. Look for opportunities to have the child put themselves in the shoes of the other person and imagine how they must feel. Ask questions like what would help you if you were in those shoes?
Help children find healthy ways to cope with their own uncomfortable emotions. Unfortunately, technology is how a lot of teens today cope with stress or emotions like anger, embarrassment or fear. They need to practice talking emotions through with an adult who is capable of listening and reflecting, without making it about themselves. They need you to model ways to process emotions through talking, exercise, journaling or meditation.
Teach your children to respect other people by modeling the behavior yourself. Show respect to everyone and stay in control of your emotions. Show children calm, compassionate ways to interact and solve conflict with others — even with people who are difficult. If you didn't learn these skills from your parents or another trusted adult, work with a coach or counselor and learn them yourself first.
Discuss situations that you see in TV shows. Ask your child if they relate to a person in the show. Talk about what they might be feeling and experiencing. Talk about these fictional people with compassion and understanding. Avoid judgment, criticism and talking down about people on TV, even if they aren't real.
Talk with your children about bullying. Most kids see or experience bullying at school. This is a topic you should bring up and talk about often. Ask questions about the kind of bullying your child sees both off and online. Ask how they feel about this and see if they can put themselves in the shoes of both the bully and the victim. What do you think is driving the behavior? Why is it a problem? What can we do about it? What kind of person do you want to be? These are great questions to start with.
Discuss often what it means to be a good friend. Ask your children questions like what kind of behaviors do you see in good friends. What does it mean to you when you are treated well? What does bad friend behavior look like? What kind of friend do you want to be?
Empathy is a skill and we can get better at it with commitment and practice. In today's world, it is easy to function from a place of judgment toward others and especially toward people who are different.
Increasing our own empathy and compassion means stretching and being willing to get out of our comfort zone. It means taking time to listen and show up instead of distracting ourselves with our phones. However, empathy is the rich and loving part of our connection with other human beings that make life worth living; it will be worth the effort.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.