With conflicts occurring around the world constantly, coupled with the ripple effect by the media, it is difficult for anyone to believe that world peace can indeed be achieved. There might be truces signed and cessation of violence within the short term, but repetitions of conflict and escalating violence are common. In 1945, some may feel that World War II is the last global conflict but then, the Korean War occurs in the early 1950s, and then the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s, and then..
If humans are so attuned to conflicts, how then can lasting peace be achieved? In fact, conflicts are not new to the world. Wars asides, conflicts can be seen everywhere even in peaceful times – office politics, companies’ expansion strategies, mergers and acquisitions, family and martial disputes, sibling rivalries, global competition to attract talents to prevent brain drain, countries’ escalating rush to be economically viable and independent and many more are all examples of conflicts. In fact, since the beginning of time, humans have often been mired in conflicts of interests and altercations of varying degree.
This strive for excellence through conflict (instead of collaboration) is taking a toll not only among working adults but – in recent years – students and children as well. Some competitive students within the same class are reluctant to share notes with their friends while others have reservations about helping their friends with their school work – for fear that their peers would outshine them academically gradually, and beating them professionally in the near future.
Conflicts has much of its origin rooted in fear.
Office politics is merely a matter of self-preservation. And self-preservation has its roots steeped in fear. Couples quarrel because both of them often have expectations of each other. However, often unknown to them and operating at a subconscious level, their expectations conceal a reluctance for things to change, and for the status quo to remain. And refusing to leave one’s comfort zone is due to fear. A companies’ aggressive expansion strategies or a strong desire to acquire other smaller firms may also – at times- be attributed to the fear of failing.
But fear – while being a major component of conflict – are but one aspect of negative emotions.
Other negative emotions such as envy, jealousy, anger, avarice are also culprits behind conflicts. Because their forms are somehow varied and diverse (not to mention that such motives and emotions are often hidden), many would not admit to feeling such emotions. Humans have a way of justifying their behaviours through – at times – skewed logic, or emotionally-laden rationalisation.
It’s such downward spiral in contemporary society that make many lose hope in the good of humanity. But the good of humanity has always been in us and it has never gone away. To bring back the good of humanity, it is important to always remember two things that are crucial for the good of human nature to emerge:
i. We need to love people: This does not mean that one needs to say “I love you” to everyone we meet, for that will often backfire (as different people perceive things differently, and they might misconstrued what you are trying to say).
However, this does mean that we have to give people attention. How? In recent years, many people are attention-deprived. Some might argue that with the proliferation of social media where people are free to post updates, they have every attention they need. But this is a big no. A good question to ask: Are anybody listening? If simply posting updates on social media makes one feel loved, there wouldn’t been teenagers facing depression (it is interesting that in this article, it cites the possibility of teenagers spend more time on social media because they are depressed. If this is the case, the increased exposure to social media will probably exacerbate their conditions, since they will increased their “comparison time” with their peers).
Consider the following remarks by some individuals in everyday circumstances:
1. “I have no money to buy this.”
2. “Why can’t you leave work early to have dinner with me?”
3. “Why can’t you spend some time at home?”
4. “My boss is making me work for hours and hours!”
5. “My colleague has taken a month’s study leave and I have to cover his/her work!”
In all the situations above, the individuals who are making these statements are saying the exact same thing: I am NOT loved.
The irony in contemporary living is that in a world of social media where people are free to express their thoughts online, people are feeling more isolated than before. In a world where online dating websites are supposedly able to bring people from different parts of the world together, people are not feeling connected. In a world where materialism are able to fulfill people’s wants and needs, few people are feeling happy.
The human connection is severed and the human touch is gone.
We no longer feel the need to connect emotionally and spiritually. Text messages and images have replaced interpersonal interaction.
And then we begin to have expectations, lots of expectations. We start to feel that unless this is so, then that is that. Unless you are in my good favour, I feel no obligation to help or love you. If you are not family, then you are a stranger (just look at the “bystander effect”, especially in an urban setting, which has been studied extensively in recent years).
We should reflect introspectively whenever we are out on the street. When we encounter strangers, how do we regard them? How about, say, a child? A man? An elderly? A handicapped person? A wheelchair-bound individual? A poor person? A wealthy person? A single? A couple? A divorcee? A local? A foreigner? Are there any differences in how we perceive them in terms of our friendliness or apprehension level? What are our perception of them? We need to be constantly mindful of our thoughts and senses. Over time, we will be able to trace back our emotions and perception of them – and we will realise that much of these formed impressions are actually deeply established in our childhood and/or our past. However, this does not mean that we can’t change these perceptions, especially when they are negative in nature.
We need to give people attention. We have not given enough attention to our loved ones and friends in the past and things have gotten worse in a (social ) media-filled world.
How do we do that?
We can make an effort to help others whenever we can. Placing others’ priority before oneself is a great practice. (I am not saying that this is easy, or that it is possible all the time. I am just saying that it can be done most of the time if one is willing). Doing charity is also a great way to show love. Smiling at someone who is sad or depressed has a way of giving someone hope (this is also not easy for some people, especially when they may perceive some people whose values are not aligned with their own as hostile. For instance, if one is frugal, then smiling at someone who loves to immerse in materialism is challenging. One way to counter this is to think of everyone as wanting to be happy. just like us, but they do it in their own ways- which we may not be agreeable. However, as long as their actions do not bring harm to themselves and others, we should seek to love them as they are).
They are many ways to bring love to others in their lives. The above are merely some examples. Be creative and think up more on your own. Have fun!
ii. See the good in people: In order to love people, we need to build a firm foundation in order to do so. And that is established in seeing the good in others. Much as idealists and perfectionists would like to paint a perfect pictures of some individuals as angelic and saintly, we know deep down in our hearts that mere mortals are often fallible and do make mistakes at some point in our lives. At the other end of the spectrum, there are some who feel that people are often self-centered and often place self before others in the name of self-preservation.
If we look deeply and if we are frank with ourselves, then we know that both perceptions are merely illusions. The truth lies in the middle ground – humans are virtuous by nature but often err due to fallacies caused by their own mental faculties. Often, we refuse to admit this as a fact because admittance to this fact implies a direct confession of our own faults and flaws, something which we often cannot face up to.
By just saying to ourselves to see the good in ourselves is not good enough. We often do not persevere in this endeavour because human nature tends to be inclined towards the negative. Just look around us. Test and exams often accumulate marks based on correct answers up to 100%, and not deduct the marks from 100% based on mistakes made. Some singles reject potential dates when the latter fail to meet their expectations (which, in another words, are based on faults they find in others). In reality singing competitions, contestants are less often praised and commended for their strengths when they were rejected but scrutinised for their winning potentials (which in another words,means identifying any faults that they might have).
One can say that we live in a very unforgiving society where one can be ostracised or regarded as an outcast due to their social status, wealth, materialistic possession, academic qualifications, looks and many more, and the media often compounded this problem when they leverage on human nature’s inclinations to make subjective comparisons by celebrating youth and defining beauty for the masses (which has the effect of expediting one’s process of discerning someone based on their external appearances and physical, visual appeal, and this is extremely unhealthy).
If we really want to see the good in others, we would need to urge ourselves to find redeeming qualities in others. The term “redeeming” my sound degrading, so let’s put it this way: everyone wants others to like them. This include ourselves. It is the same for those people that we dislike or do not take well to. If we want to be liked, shouldn’t we give everyone in this world a chance to be liked or even loved? If this rationale is acceptable to you and you agree with it, then it is easy to always want to find redeeming qualities in others, even those of your adversaries and those whom you do not see eye to eye with.
And if you really put in the effort to find the good in someone, you will almost always find them. Just as one of the quotes in Khaled Hosseini’s “Kite Runner” states, “There is always a way to be good again”. But we have to give others a chance at deliverance first.
In contemporary times, with an emphasis and focus on speed, we have relied a tad too much on gut feelings or intuition. Being an intuitive myself, I have to give credits to it, alongside logical thinking. I believe the two are not mutually exclusive but work well together. However, we have – more often than not – made our judgement of others too quickly, to the point of stereotyping or discriminating others based on first impressions. Yes, first impressions are important but they are not everything but merely, the tip of the iceberg. There are many books written on this subject of first impressions but in my humble opinion, first impressions are way over-hyped. It is impossible to identify felons on the streets, and geniuses among the masses. Humans are so much more than their appearances. Just look at this experiment. How many people recognises Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinists in the world in a typical urban setting?
In our contemporary society, be it in the dating, business, personal or social arena, we pass judgement on others’ physical appearances, their image. We no longer relate to others at a personal level. We relate to their physical image. We have fallen in love with their image. In fact, we are obsessed with images. We often juxtapose what we see in the media onto others and if they fit our mental profiles, then they should be these specific types of people. If they do not, then they are strangers to us and we often deemed them as unfriendly, repulsive or even hostile. This is the reason why singles are getting more frustrated when finding dates – as single ladies scrambled to dress up and dazzle with their looks while single men slog their life away to make their social ascension through the corporate ladders, both of whom are oblivious to the fact that they have fallen in love with their images and themselves, instead of putting in time to love others. Hence, true love is fickle in modern times.
So,from today, see people for who they really are. And to do that, we cannot see with our eyes alone. More importantly, we have to see with our hearts. Mastery will only come with practice. After that, forgive their flaws, identify their goodness and love them.
So go out there, love others, see their good, and good will surely come back to us in their own ways.