“Be kind because everyone you meet is carrying a great burden.” Philo
Aligning one’s thoughts, words and actions with an ethic of non-harming is a life long process.
It is motivated by the desire to alleviate pain and suffering, one’s own and others, and an ongoing awareness of the countless ways we participate, both individually and collectively, in causing harm.
The web of relationships in which each of us finds ourselves is the place this harm occurs, ranging from a simple act of unkind speech, to often deeply ingrained biased and prejudicial attitudes, to complex lifestyle choices (though, for many, there may be few, if any, choices) related to food, clothing, shelter, education, health, leisure, employment, governance, transportation, money/investments, etc.
Yet, it is precisely this awareness that lights up the many places where we can make choices that lead to less and less harm, while at the same time planting the seeds for and/or strengthening less harmful habits.
Here are a few examples. Acknowledging feelings of anger and speaking kindly and firmly is possible, and requires practice. Feeling afraid and making a sincere effort to understand and get to know those who are different is possible, and requires practice. Choosing to get from home to work on a bicycle or by bus instead of driving one’s own vehicle is possible. Shifting one’s investments away from corporations that exploit their employees and the environment and avoid paying their share of taxes, to one’s that do not, is possible.
Entering into this process more and more completely requires courage, commitment, patience and, especially, a light and wise touch so that efforts to bring about justice and peace don’t themselves cause harm in the short term and sew the seeds of injustice and violence for the future, e.g., waging war to bring about peace.
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