Wherever there is conflict there are people suffering, whether it is the current conflict in Syria or elsewhere in the world. Whether it is the couple next door arguing or the child being picked upon by bullies at school, people get hurt. Every day I see adults who as children have been wounded deeply as a consequence of parental relationship breakdown or as a consequence of bullying.
A recent study conducted by researchers from Warwick University and Duke University, North Carolina (1) concluded that bullying has major ramifications with regard to the physiological effects of bullying on people’s stress and immune systems. Furthermore the long term effects are profound, with school performance, difficulty maintaining jobs, friendships, family and social relationship difficulties to name but a few. Seldom does a year pass without another report of a suicide whether from cyber-bullying or other hidden bullying.
Anybody who has been bullied will know that bullying is not a “harmless rite of passage” or an inevitable part of growing up. It casts a “long shadow” over the lives of both victims and the perpetrators of bullying. (1) Those adults who say that “school was the best days of our lives” clearly were not picked on and humiliated by bullies at the school gate.
Parents, who use children as pawns or weapons in a relationship breakdown, are so fuelled by hatred that they forget the impact of this emotional game. I would go so far as to suggest it is “abuse” of one party by the other, with the child being “abused by proxy” and caught in the crossfire. An atmosphere of tension is “toxic” and most unhealthy for our children.
The problem is, that in any war whether global, relationship, playground or other, is that satisfying one party will very often only cause great suffering to the other. In other words, to defeat one side in order to satisfy their anger impacts deeply on the other. Many of the roots of conflict come about directly as a result of the way we live our lives.
As we look at a stranger from another land and view them as “a scrounger playing the system” we all need to consider our thoughts and the seed that is sown by such thoughts. We need to try to step back and see their suffering. Do we know what they have been through, poverty, war, rape or worse. We all have plenty to give and to share with others. As we walk by the beggar on the street we need to ask ourselves how did he (or she) get here. As Martin Luther King stated in his 1967 “beyond Vietnam” speech: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar… it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
Our society needs to embrace compassion and love. As individuals we all need to practise non-violence. Whether it is the producers of toxic television programmes that are filling young minds with irresponsible ideas, or fly tipping trucks polluting our countryside, we all need to be more responsible. To look out for each other. Everything we do from the food we eat, to the way we greet others, the way live our lives makes a difference.
With mental illness affecting one in four people in the UK we need to ask ourselves what this is all about. With people walking by as somebody is being assaulted, we need to ask what is all this about. With countryman fighting countryman we need to ask what this is all about. We need to care for each other. Take time to sit and listen to others. To ask the beggar how he got there…but we don’t, why, because we are all too afraid. Peace comes from within and compassion arises out of peace.
No matter how small, everyday acts of kindness can help make peace a reality; whether it is standing up for somebody in trouble, saying sorry, reconnecting with an old friend, or helping someone you see who’s in need of assistance. Of course, random acts of kindness should take place all year round, but we would like to invite you to join with others around the world to give this wonderful idea special focus on Peace Day 21 September.
Wherever you are, at home, school, or work, you can help improve the quality of the lives of the people around you, including your family, colleagues, teachers, classmates or friends.
Sometimes the simplest things can have the most immediate and meaningful impact on the lives of everyone around you. (2)
Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.
(1) Bullying does long term damage, Therapy Today. September 2013, Vol 24, issue 7. P5. www.therapytoday.net
General reference: Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life by Thich Nhat Hanh, 1991, Rider. www.interbeing.org.uk
Image ref: www.peaceoneday.org