In a world that glorifies aggression and ambition, it’s often difficult to get a word in edgewise about non-agression. In the same world where anger, hatred and violence rule the day, it’s nigh impossible to take non-violence seriously. The mainstream, accepted cultural norm is dog eat dog, each man for himself. Increasingly, it’s each woman for herself, too. I’ve got mine, go find your own isn’t exactly the way humanity evolved to the top of the food chain.
We’re social critters. We build upon each other’s experiences, achievements and failures. In fact, a strong case for failure as the catalyst for societal advancement is being rediscovered in popular and clinical wisdom. Instead of angry self-centered grasping, the greatest achievements regarding our very best human qualities and most moving, long- lasting lessons come about through the humble quality of mercy.
Without the capability to live together as interdependent, social beings, people would have died out as a species millions of years ago. The strongest of the cement found in our human social structure is that of mercy. We might be impressed by a winning sports team. The raw aggression and ruthlessness of Superbowl or World Series champion teams is stirring to behold. The patriotic fervor of a mighty empire’s armies rolling over lesser nations stirs up a prideful instinct within the heads of the empire’s citizens.
It’s when sincere good sportsmanship is displayed that we feel good about the championship sports teams. It’s when the empire practices restraint by avoiding the temptation to lord over a small third world culture that real respect for the empire is earned. In short, merciful actions.
Think of a time when you failed badly at something. Did an authority figure really chew you out? Were you scolded and shamed? Were you deeply inspired and moved to improve because of the shaming behavior? Or was your failure or mistake followed by merciful, compassionate concern and actions from others? Did the mercy and compassion touch something deep and primal inside your nature? Did the mercy inspire you to try again?
In my own experience, I’ve been most moved and have learned the most from people who treated my shortcomings and mistakes with merciful compassion. Those authority figures who wanted to “teach me a lesson” delayed any improvement and fostered resentments and fear.
Most “experts” in the everyday worlds of economics and state-craft will tell you that non-violence is a respectable ideal but it’s not a viable, realistic option. We may extend an olive branch of peace, but we’d better have nukes to back it up. Is this really a peace offering or is it extortion?
It’s my opinion that working together as a society with mercy and compassion will ultimately save our species from extinction. I think it’s not only necessary but it’s a practical, doable action. We need to get to the selfish, fear based mental drug that humankind uses as a crutch. A sincere, honest attitude of compassion, love and mercy individually and collectively is the way of the future if we want to not only survive but to thrive.
The way forward is to practice compassion and mercy towards each other.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says to start out with mercy towards yourself, then follow through.