The internet is full of things that will make you angry. Right now, someone is desecrating that which you hold most sacred. Someone is spouting rubbish so unbearable that you will think it dangerous. We can choose to seek out opportunities to be offended and upset, or we can choose to avoid them. In our personal lives, we can choose to dwell on wrongs committed against us, or we can tune them out. We can forgive, or not. At first glance the acts of ignoring would seem like the ones most likely to engender a sense of inner peace. I don’t think this is so. There’s a process to undertake here, and there are balances to strike.
Ignoring wrongs very simply condones them and facilitates their continuing. Turning a blind eye may assist our equilibrium in the short term, but if we are truly being abused in some way – be that by those around us, government bodies, institutionalised prejudice and the like, ignoring won’t fix it or make it go away. Usually the reverse happens. To get to a point of peace it is often necessary to tackle any external sources of difficulty. Sometimes the only option we have is to move away from the source of the problem, but this isn’t always peace-inducing. Leaving a festering pool of wrongness and pollution behind may well create in you a legacy of wondering what was harmed next, or whether it spread. The peace of knowing the problem is truly resolved, is like no other. The future is lining up a few opportunities for me to tackle aspects of my past. I mean to make the best use of them that I can. I want peace, and I want specifically the kind of peace that comes from having sorted things out and done the right things.
When confronting a wrong, it’s important to consider just how wrong it is, and whether it is, really speaking, your problem. If there is litter chocking the stream near your house, then there is something you can do. If atheists fill you with irrational rage, then maybe seeking out the places where atheists go on line in order to keep telling them what the afterlife is going to do to them, isn’t the best idea. There is a difference between tangible harm – being harassed, attacked, showered with chemical poisons from a factory, and taking offence at something someone else does. It’s that old if you don’t like thinking about what gay guys do, just don’t think about it, solution.
It gets tricky at this point because of course certain schools of thinking will understand certain kinds of behaviour as being dangerous and wrong. Someone less liberal than you may consider you dangerous. Part of the problem here is that fundamentalists of all hues (religious, atheist, scientific, political…) often have the belief that they are entitled or required to try and change you for your own good. If we could just let go of that notion of entitlement and requirement, we could solve a lot of problems. By all means, put your version out there, but if others reject it, you are not responsible for that. It is not your job to force it down the throats of the unwilling.
So where do we go with the people for whom climate change is a belief they don’t agree with, not an established fact? And if we say that the voice of sanity must prevail here, how do we handle it when the drug companies demand, claiming the voice of sanity, that all those quack medicines be taken off the market? (for which read herbal remedies and anything they aren’t getting paid for.) In my experience the majority of swords turn out to be double edged.
Sometimes, the answer is not to look outside and blame others for what causes us to feel angry, threatened or mistreated. Sometimes the answer was inside all along. Why should a straight person feel angry and threatened by gay marriage, for example? Work on the inside would be a better approach there for seeking peace. But the other side of the sword lops bits off us instead. If you are being bullied and you start to imagine that the problem is inside you (not an unusual reaction, I gather) then what you do is internalise the bullying, swallow the blame, and there is no hope for peace in that scenario, not without radical change.
True peace requires integrity and self awareness. It requires recognition as to whether the change needs to happen inside us, or outside. To find it, we have to be more interested in getting things right than merely appearing to be right. We have to be willing to change, to let go, to see with new eyes. We need compassionate thinking, both for ourselves and for others. That, I think, is the key. True peace is compassionate. If you are fighting for peace, if you are angry, what you get will not bring peace. Only compassion can do that, and in trying to find a right way through, compassion is your most reliable guide.