For the last 5 or 6 years, my personal life motto has been “We Can’t Hold Hands When We’re Pointing Fingers,” and (despite the several silly attempts by people who literally try holding hands when pointing fingers) I think it’s an important thing to realize.
We can spout off about peace and about getting along and about tolerance and coexistence, but until we realize that the problem doesn’t just lie outside of ourselves–it’s actually within us, for the most part–it won’t really change. We need to realize that we can and do create this discord on a daily basis when we gossip, when we talk about someone behind each other’s backs, when we blame something on someone.
Blame. You might feel like it’s productive, that it makes a difference–and it does make a difference, but not a very productive one. It changes your mindset to make you believe that the problem lies within the other person.
And we see this mentality thrive like a cancer through society. “Well, everything’s messed up because of them!” or “It would all be better if it weren’t for them.” Even just “Ugh, why do they have to be here?”
I was reading Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War, and something she said really hit it on the head. “…as long as we justify our own hard-heartedness and our own self-righteousness, joy and peace will always elude us. We point our fingers at the wrongdoers, but we ourselves are mirror images; everyone is outraged at everyone else’s wrongness.” (Chodron, Practicing Peace in Times of War p.27)
So what do we do? What can we do with this information, this idea of letting that pointing finger fall open into an open hand?
We first work on ourselves. Conflict starts with ourselves. Your reaction to an adverse situation gets the ball of intolerance and hate rolling. Once you open your mouth and spew a mindless, negative word in the direction of someone to which you are opposed, the lines are drawn.
First, patience. When we feel the urge to react, don’t…at least not immediately. This can be a very difficult thing to do, but when you do it and sit with that anger and fear and aggression, not reacting on its behalf can be magical.
There’s no easy antidote to intolerance and its many manifestations, and I don’t have all the answers, but pointing those fingers and blaming others for the problems of the world won’t help.
On a lighter note, you can purchase a “We Can’t Hold Hands When We’re Pointing Fingers” bumper sticker! Spread the peace and tolerance! Every purchase comes with a free download of the song of the same name.