Last weekend I made the almost two-hour drive through the suburbs and up into the low-lying foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. I was on the way to visit my mother and her conservative husband who I hadn’t seen in over three years. The stress of the recent events along with covid, opposing morals, and values had kept us apart for all the wrong reasons. I was determined to be positive and accepting and let them be who they are no matter how hard they might test me. I’ve always been able to see past the hurt, and I was excited and happy about seeing them and healing our wounds. I made myself smile several times on the drive and gave myself a positive affirmation before arrival.
Growing up my mother and I had always been close, and I was someone she could lean on when my father became too abusive and controlling. Recent years had caused a rift, and events, distance, and differing viewpoints had sadly kept us apart. I felt compelled to go take ownership of these misunderstandings and renew the family bond. I’m grown up and have my own family now, but family is blood is a bond and I pictured us easily talking, laughing, and most of all forgiving.
As we’re all too painfully aware, this country is at war with itself and there are many harsh words, too much hatefulness, and undeserved hurting. I believe that no one is better than anyone else, but we see it every day in public discourse and disagreements. One side wants to believe in the good of all but the other sees only differences. hate, and division. There’s fear on both sides and much anxiety and unnecessary pain. Why do humans have a compulsion to divide themselves in tribal entities with such zeal and narrowmindedness?
My family is no exception and probably like many others. Some of us went off into the big world, became educated, and broadened our horizons. The remainder stayed close to where they came from and sought comfort in others who choose the same path that comes from lack of empathy and fear. Their picture of life is limited and anything outside or different feels threatening and confusing. Blood is a bond for many of us but when we evolve and create bigger lives it's natural to clash, grow apart, and feel divided. It’s sad and tragic but when our views are so different, we are often cursed with indifference and disdain. The family unit weakens, and hard feelings are the unhappy norm.
As I parked my car, the first thing I saw was a hateful and divisive bumper sticker prominently displayed in the driveway. It was startling and not the olive branch that I had hoped for. I took a deep breath and thought about my choices and what I was there to accomplish. Part of me wanted to get back in my car and drive away, but I reminded myself of my mission. Do I want to be part of the solution or create more hard feelings in reaction to every micro-aggression? I asked myself, do I want to use the power of mind and create a solution, or would I take the cowards path and walk away?
The mood as I entered their home was defensive at first and wary. I could feel that they were wondering if I would be upset or angry and take the bait that they had laid. I felt more disappointed than angry, but I didn’t want to hurt them. I believe we can make more change when we are kind and open hearted. Words have great power, and anger is a brutal selfish weapon and one that should never be used on anyone we love. As The Happiness Warrior, I believe that logic and empathy can be used together when we have a goal to make things better.
I realize that they see the world in the terms that they understand no matter how misguided and at odds with my morals and values. How did we grow so far apart? I listened, commented gently, and we gradually ascended into a more comfortable conversation. They lobbed quite a few bombs at me, mostly racist or gun related. Shocking in their intensity and hate. They live in an insular world where everyone thinks alike, and proudly display their casual racism, misinformation, and paranoia. The hate in their words was stunning, but I remained composed and non-reactive. They are my family, and I can’t help still loving them. We all have choices, and they chose to live in a mindset where ignorance is glorified and normalized through uncivil behavior and careless actions.
THINKING WITH CLARITY
When we learn to think for ourselves, we realize that our brains are like puzzles and how we put the pieces together is the way to gain clarity and find our inner truth. We must be able to ask questions without fear of the answer. We must be able to rise above ignorance and conspiracies and learn to think for ourselves. Only when we are true in our spirit can we be our brightest guide through life. This is the way to enlightenment for all when we live by example, think for ourselves, question everything, and always seek the truth.
USE LOGIC TO REASON
Using logic is how we find the truth and use our brain to think freely. Free thinkers are masters of their subconscious thoughts and seek to gain understanding. They listen to their intuition and inner guiding voice. They understand that there are many sides to each human, each thought, and argument. They understand what is true beyond all doubt. Logical thinking is their way of life and creed. Know that the opposite of pushing is pulling. Which has more power to create the change we so desperately need?
Someone who identifies as a free thinker doesn’t believe that thoughts should be formed based on tradition, religious dogma, authority, or revelation. We are active participants in creating our reality. How we perceive and objectify our world is how we see our place in society.
STRATEGIES FOR THINKING CLEARLY
As The Happiness Warrior, I believe that life is a great game and how we play it is how we win in life. We all have choices, and we can use our intellect to create strategies for rising above the storm that surrounds us. We can elevate our thinking to raise our vibration and lead the way for others who are struggling. We can help them conquer their unfounded fears and negative emotions:
1. Focus on one thing that you can accomplish each day. Identify the problem and say it aloud. Take action to make it smaller and know that you have the skills and experience to solve anything.
2. Notice emotions and triggers. Which are causing us real harm, and which are imaginary or irrelevant.
3. Take a brief inventory of your daily habits and assumptions and write them down. Which are doing you good, which are doing you harm, and which are delusional, or fear based?
4. Be skeptical and question before reacting. Rely on your own ability to disseminate facts. Don’t follow the mob.
5. Stop giving up on yourself. Persistence is one of the ways that we uncover our hidden strengths.
6. Identify core values and monitor behavior to correspond with the truth.
7. Live in accordance with your Core Values and make them part of your identity.
8. Know that no good decision was ever the result of peer pressure or social identification. Sheep follow and leaders show them the way!
9. Listen to your instinct and intuition. We often know the answers without asking ourselves first.
10. Never base any decision on hearsay, base all major choices on logic and facts.
11. Perception is different for all of us, consider the other sides of any problem before committing to a solution.
12. Ask for and demand evidence. Require proof before truly believing. The old saying “facts before feelings” applies to every facet of life.
POSITIVE WORDS HAVE POWER
Language is a tool for describing what we see, feel, and believe. Language helps us share our passions and ideas. Language must be used for positive change and flow of ideas. Know that words have spirit and never disappear. Choose words and inner thoughts that propel you forward and avoid critiquing or shaming others. Words are powerful beyond measure and something we say today might reverberate for decades. Choose powerful words that are self-affirming and help others see more clearly. The world will only change when we take responsibility and adapt with an unwavering faith in our authenticity and character.
No one likes to hear that they live their lives incorrectly. Preaching to someone that we’re smarter or know more might be accurate but is never something that anyone wants to hear. Educate others gently when possible and lead by example. Never veer far from your core values but live in the understanding that others are not as far along on their journey. Be kind and understanding while remaining clear and resolute. Don’t let them drag you down but bring them along and show them how the happy people live and act in their lives!
QUESTION EVERYTHING AND LIVE IN TRUTH
When we feel good about ourselves and live in our truth, we can begin to fully question everything that we thought we once knew. We can change our perception and see life with more clarity. We can become the leaders that the world needs so badly.
Questions lead to answers that we might never have considered. They can help us unlock our potential and set the world right. Never be afraid of your own voice, we all have value and our thoughts and opinions matter and help to shape our lives for the better.
Respect others when you ask them for knowledge, you may not agree or believe but it helps create a better place to grow from. This is the most powerful step and an indication that we are beginning to master our lives and find our purpose. It’s a sense of freedom but also a great responsibility. Look to do good and take action that inspires and encourages rather than stir up hate and resentment. Be ready for anything and never show your emotions when faced with adversity or hate. Rise above and show that you’ve chosen the right path by leading with your courage.
It's hard to see people that we love who have taken a dark path and are only hurting themselves. We can choose to love with compassion, or we can live in darkness and hate. The best choice is always within our grasp and comprehension and never hard to make.
As humans, we know instinctively between right and wrong and must not let ourselves be swayed by societal pressure, group hate, and false leaders. We are humans and we all have the power to be our best selves and rise over darkness. Life is too short to spend all our time in fear.
Look for the light in others and surround yourself with good energy. Be a beacon of sanity and truth in a world with so many lies and misunderstandings. That’s how we can bring about the change that we so badly need and want. More kindness and forgiveness are the only way that we will ever make our lives better. The absolute truth may forever allude to us, but we can make our world better when we are able to adjust our beliefs and experiences and live in harmony with ourselves and others. Be your own Happiness Warrior and spread happiness, clear thinking, and empathy wherever you go!