For a good portion of my adolescence, I was very combative. In junior high school I was always getting into fights, so much so that my father had enough and sent me to live in Jamaica for a year. In Jamaica I saw how difficult life was for my mom and vowed to not fight again—wanting to help her live a better life, I didn’t believe fighting all the time would help in that goal. As I’m writing this article, I can’t recall getting into any fights since I returned from Jamaica at age fourteen—I’ll be thirty-five in a little over a month.
I don’t claim to be a saint. While I haven’t physically gotten into fights, I have gotten into many verbal altercations. Surprisingly, none of them have led to any physical violence. But the verbal violence was very real. My words became sharp--oftentimes cutting people that were closest to me. If you were to say something I disagreed with, my goal wasn’t to have productive discourse but quite the opposite. My goal was to make you feel stupid.
I’m embarrassed to write that my girlfriends got the brunt of this behavior, followed by family. Ask them and they will tell you how hard I fought to always be right, even at the risk of causing serious friction.
I just didn’t care. Nothing was more important than being right, and making them know they were wrong.
It wasn’t until I listened to Eckhart Tolle’s audiobook “Practicing The Power of Now” that I realized my behavior was fueled by my ego. According to Tolle, “Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain.” Because of the pain inside of me, I took it out on others. When the fighting stopped, the pain presented itself by arguing and putting others down.
A few weeks ago my friend mentioned the book “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle and so far, it’s been another banger. Since starting to read this week, I’ve been engrossed in it for the past two days. Similar to his talk of the ego in “Practicing The Power of Now,” “A New Earth” offers a similar message. However, what differentiates the two works, at least in the limited amount that I’ve read, is that the latter is concerned with how we can make the world better. Not through aiming to be someone with power, but instead to focus on oneself. Tolle believes that society, being driven by greed, fear, and the desire for power, is moving us towards our own destruction. It isn’t until we come to grips with our ego that true change can occur.
While I am in no way a finished product, I started to make greater efforts to deal with my fear and desire for power that my ego was living on. Through therapy and mindfulness, I was able to identify these traits within myself. Because I no longer want to ruin my relationships nor hurt others, I’m making an effort to change.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen partisanship all over the world, but especially in my home country, the United States. The dialogue happening between fellow Americans has reminded me of the very behavior I exhibited—always seeking to be right and using my words to hurt others. I’ve heard Americans calling other Americans the vilest names because “the other side” has a different view from their own.
The 2020 General Elections have wrapped up, and barring any proof of wrongdoing it looks like Joe Biden will be our next president. He walked away with the most votes in the history of our elections. But check the numbers and you’ll see that Donald Trump had the support of over 70 million Americans. I’ve heard people that despise Trump say those 70 million are dumb. That is their ego talking. The ego can’t comprehend how so many people could side with someone like Trump, and they therefore must not be in their right minds.
The U.S. has a lot of problems that need addressing, and it is my belief that the most pressing issue is the way we treat and talk with one another. It’s my belief that democracy is the most beautiful way a society can express itself and move forward in a constructive manner. The way it is currently being run is having the opposite effect. We run the risk of tearing our country apart, and because of the power America holds, we run the risk of tearing the world apart.
I can equate both sides of the political divide to my time in church.
Many churches that I’ve attended seemed to look down on those deemed to be sinners—judging others for the way they live their lives. I call this the “downward view” and imagine these people picturing themselves sat next to their God and casting judgment. What turned me off is that these people that had a downward view were not without fault. Sometimes the same people that judged others committed the same acts which they themselves were critical. I see this same behavior in my country. Both sides look down on each other as if the “other side” is an abomination unto the earth—sin manifested.
The approach we need to bring about the new earth Tolle speaks of is through an “upward view.” The belief that we all fall short and don’t have all the answers. There’s really no way one political party or one belief system can have all the answers. So instead of judging others, we realize that we all collectively fall short, and to find the solutions to some of our challenging questions, we do some figurative looking up together. Continuing to operate as if some of our neighbors are evil and others are on the side of good based on the party they support will only lead to problems. People are much more nuanced.
I haven’t finished reading “The New Earth” but I am looking forward to reading more. Give it a read and we can discuss it together.
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