We have a problem. We have a big, gigantic problem in this country right now (well, we have more than one, but I’m writing a blog post, not a novel). Fear. Fear comes in a lot of different forms. Some of it is founded, because of things that have happened in our past, like the shooting in Vegas. But some of our fears are not founded. Some of our fears may have been passed down to us from our immediate families, or ancestors. Some fears are created in our minds and have no logical foundation. But because many of us still believe what our minds tell us, we believe every fearful thought that our minds create.
Lately, when I have talked about going hiking alone, people have asked me things like “aren’t you scared to be out there alone?” and “do you carry a gun?” Honestly, the thought has never crossed my mind once. And I’m not even sure what I would be protecting myself from on the trail. Animals? Black bears? Mountain lions? Black bears are generally not aggressive. And if a mountain lion decides to attack me, I’ll never even see it coming. I’ve never understood why anyone thinks that we’ll all be safer if we’re walking around carrying guns to protect ourselves. If people weren’t carrying guns around, what exactly would we need to protect ourselves from??! In my experience, while I have encountered wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, and mountain lions when I have been hiking for work and leisure, I have never been as scared of any wild animal in the way that I am afraid of a human who carries a gun. The people who I have met out hiking on the trails have been some of the kindest souls, and I have never feared any of them. What I do fear in those wild settings is another person who decides to carry a gun because he or she is afraid. Generally, the trails are filled with good people out to enjoy nature and/or escape all the people in the cities walking around carrying guns. So, where does all of this fear come from? Guns aren’t going to fix anything. At all. Ever. So, unless you hunt as a means to get food for you and your family, or you’re in the back country of Alaska where the ratio of grizzly bears to humans is high, I see no place for guns in nature. As a woman, I am MUCH more afraid to walk around a city at night by myself than I ever am when I am out hiking. And part of that is related to guns and the rising amount of gun violence in this country.
I know that people who favor being able to have guns see the issue as a rights issue first and foremost, but I think it needs to be talked about instead as a safety issue. While I do not like the idea of our government limiting our rights, I have a bigger problem with my fellow citizens who continue to open fire on large crowds of people using semiautomatic rifles. It is one thing to have a gun for hunting, but it is quite another to have semiautomatic rifle meant for the mass killing of other humans.
I realize that the way we treat mental health in this country is also partly to blame, but even with that being said, the extent of damage done with a non-assault rifle would pale in comparison to damage done with assault rifles. If a shooter had less ammunition readily loaded, the chances of them being able to mow down a crowd of people in a matter of minutes without being noticed and stopped would decrease significantly. I know it without having to read research papers and without studying the statistics behind it. You know it. I think we all know it, but here we are still arguing about gun rights while innocent people are being murdered.
Gun violence is not new, and even the first shootings that took place in schools have somehow sunk farther into history than I care to admit to myself. But as time goes on, it just feels like these attacks are showing up more and more in places where people gather to celebrate, connect, relax, or experience joy. And that’s scary. It’s scary because it’s unpredictable and can literally happen anywhere at any time. While we’re at the movies, concerts, school, and church.
I believe that we are being given the opportunity to see just how broken our current society is. At what point, do we collectively face ourselves as a nation and decide that enough is enough? When do we start coming together so that everyone can have equal rights, experiences, and opportunities? When do we collectively start putting ourselves in other people’s shoes so much so that we cannot bear the thought of hurting another human being? When do we stop looking at other people as if they are the problem and realize that it is our own fear and hurt and doubts that prevent us from fully embracing ourselves and therefore fully embracing others?
Friends, it starts with each of us. And not necessarily in the sense that you might believe. Of course I think that pushing for and taking action to have new legislation rolled out that would block the sales of assault rifles in this country would make a positive impact on our society. But I do not believe that it’s the only thing that we need to consider. I think we need to really look at and face the demons that we each carry. Right now. Today. What is it that creates your fear? Why do you believe that owning a gun will keep you safe? What makes you hate yourself so much that you can hate another person enough to shun them, hurt them, or even kill them? What is it about the (fill in the blank) race, (fill in the blank) gender, (fill in the blank) sexual orientation that makes you think that you are separate from them? That you are better? That you are better to the point of wanting to deny them the same freedom that everyone else has? To the point of wanting to cause them harm in some way?
In my own life, I can see that the times where I felt like I was being destroyed, when I felt like I hit rock bottom, were the times when I was given the opportunity to start over. I was given the opportunity to build myself and my life back up the way I wanted it to be. I can tell you that it was not an easy road. I did not gain my current perspective, level of gratitude, or positivity easily. The really good things in life don’t come easy, you have to do the work. We all have to start doing the work. I think that sometimes, you have to be brought to such an immense level of pain and suffering that eventually it breaks you so that you begin searching for another way. That’s the beauty in many of our struggles. The point where we stop and look at the hurt in our daily lives and see that it’s just not working for us anymore. THAT’S where we start working for real change.
All of this may seem unrelated to my original topic of gun violence, but just bear with me here. We each live from a place of our own experiences. We were destined to come into this life with the human personality and body that we have. We are all made perfect for the journey that our souls wanted us to have in this life. But we’ve developed a way of looking at ourselves that does not serve us. I know that I spent many years seeing a lot of my “negative” qualities and “flaws” and focused more on them than I did on all of my “positive” qualities. As humans, we sometimes beat ourselves up so much that we overlook how amazing we truly are. And as I have said in other posts, when we judge ourselves so harshly, we also are more apt to judge others harshly. When deep down, even on a subconscious level, we hate ourselves, we are more prone to hate others. Let that soak in for a minute. Self-hate and loathing are not easy things to admit to ourselves. Sometimes we bury those feelings so deeply that we do not even see them, but they’re doing damage in our lives subconsciously. We work to distance ourselves from our emotions and qualities that we deem as “bad” or “negative”. We have gotten so good at distancing ourselves, in fact, that we’re all walking around feeling broken, but don’t even fully understand why. When we’re constantly seeing parts of ourselves as “bad” or unacceptable, we’re going to focus on those aspects in other people as well. So to feel more genuine love for other people, we really have to cultivate our own self-love first. I believe that self-love is the key to real solutions of change and the lack thereof is the underlying cause of the turmoil that we are facing right now.
I have lived both ways now. For many years, without even realizing it, I did not love myself. I fought against parts of myself that I did not like, or that other people did not like about me. And at the time, I could not see how that was negatively impacting my life. I did not feel happy. I sought to fill the void in me with relationships. I aimed to please people. I came to believe that as long as the other people around me were OK, then I would be OK, so I sought to make people happy. I avoided confrontation. I avoided rocking the boat. I cruised along like this for a long time. Until my life fell apart. And my life felt like it was falling apart for years. It wasn’t a quick process, but eventually, I worked with people who helped me pick apart my beliefs. I started to see how my beliefs about myself were negatively impacting my life. And it became almost like a game to me, to find the underlying beliefs or thoughts, to examine them, and then to decide whether or not to keep them based on how they made me feel. As I shed more layers and uncovered more of my actual truth, I began to experience self-love in a way that I had never before. And I can tell you that this self-love has created a positive ripple effect through all areas of my life. One of the biggest shifts comes from the fact that I have much less judgement about other people than I used to. It’s really not about getting rid of the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, but rather realizing that it takes all of the little parts to make the whole of us. We all have light and dark in us, but it’s not about rejecting the dark. It’s about realizing that we ALL share light and dark and it’s OK. If something about us is really upsetting to us to the point where we don’t feel like we can live with it, then we have to remember that we have the power to change. Just because we have always hated a certain group of people does not mean that we must continue on that path if it’s hurting our heart. Just because we have always believed something does not mean that we have to believe it forever. Give yourself permission to change and grow. Give yourself permission to live with a more open mind.
Sometimes our judgments of people are sneaky. Do you routinely judge those with differing opinions to yours? Do you judge when people have different values or a different lifestyle to you? Do you believe that your beliefs are true while other people’s aren’t? I have looked at my own judgments of people. Even now, they come out at times, but I notice them. I see that I am judging. I see that my ego is just working to make me feel better than others. My ego works to keep me separate from others, so it looks for our differences. But my heart, my soul, is always looking for the similarities. As I connect with the love that I am, I connect with the love that other people are. When my mind and ego get out of the way, I see things to love in others more than I see things to hate. I have begun to naturally see the light in others, the good. I think that sometimes I am actually glimpsing people’s souls. The souls of humans are absolutely beautiful.
When you break down the beliefs in your own life, you begin to see that we are all the same. We are all souls here having a human experience, regardless of what that experience looks like. We have come to feel very separate from each other, but it’s simply not true. I am no better than you, and you are no better than me. We are unique, but we share our humanness as our ultimate commonality in this life. Try embracing that for a change. Treat every person you meet as you wish to be treated regardless of differing beliefs or values you might each have. It doesn’t matter. How we treat ourselves and other people is what really matters. The rest is a bunch of stuff our minds create. If our collective goal became to treat each other with respect and compassion, there would not be room for violence and hate that we are experiencing in this country. Accept those around you with grace and compassion and see how your life shifts. When we each do that on a regular basis, we create peace in our own lives. When we create peace in our own lives, we create peace in the world. As Michael Franti sang, “we can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace” and “violence brings one thing, more and more of the same.” Fighting is not the answer. Guns are not the answer. Hate is not the answer. As cliche as it may sound, love is the only answer. Love yourself completely so that you may love others. It’s the only way to end our suffering. It’s the only fundamental way to stop all of the gun violence.
Have we reached our breaking point yet? Have we suffered enough?
Sending you all much love and peace.
Listen to Michael Franti’s “Bomb the World” HERE
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