Have you ever followed a thread on someone’s Facebook comment and thought of many things to say in reply? Have you had a reply, decided not to post it, and moved on feeling helpless? Since this political season has started that has happened to me too many times to mention. Since the tragedy in Orlando and the posts that have followed, it’s happened again.  Honestly, I can count at least 30 times I didn’t post a response to something.  Why?

Can anyone change a person’s mind? Can a meme, a blog entry, a video or a speech alter a human beings innermost beliefs? I’m not so sure. In my case, I wouldn’t post something on social media unless it was something I feel strongly about. You all know I’m a lover not a fighter and I strive to seek silver linings in every gray cloud. I’ve stopped myself several times from posting things I believe in because in many cases I feel it will fall on deaf ears. I would love my Facebook friends to digest what I say and, at the least, consider an alternate view from the one they currently hold. But for the most part I’m very well aware I’m preaching to the choir. However, in the light of everything I’ve read, listened to and watched the past few days I’m going to try one more time.

Perhaps if we strip all the heated arguments down to the barest emotions we can all find something to agree on. So I ask all of you, “Do you love?”  It can be a spouse, partner, friend or family member but can you say you love them? I think most of us can say yes we do, have and can love someone unconditionally. And for the most part, that feels pretty good. So I think it’s safe to conclude we all have the capacity to love. Now, the second question is, “Do you hate?” It can be a spouse, partner, friend or family member but can you say you hate them? I think most of us have a much more difficult time committing to truly “hating” someone. We may hate someone’s views or actions but really hating someone isn’t as easy. And if you do hate someone it usually doesn’t feel very good. From personal experience and many trips to a psychiatrist I learned just how detrimental hating someone can be to my overall health. Can we all agree that hating isn’t a good thing? If you answered no to that question then I suggest you not continue reading but if you answered yes than I invite you to continue on.

If we are all aware loving is good and hating is bad than why we do spend so many hours spewing hateful rhetoric in person and on social networks? I can guarantee hateful words are only revered by those who also hate and agree with what you are referring to. You are preaching to the choir. Similarly, loving words are dismissed by those who hate and lauded by those who, like you, love. So why do we spend so much time trying to change each other’s mind?

For me it is simply knowing that loving is a great way to live. I can remember the moment, like the turning on of a light bulb, when everything started making sense. It seems simple now but I realized that I can choose whether to love or hate, be happy or sad, trust or worry. I can choose whether I engage in a conversation or just listen. It is such a freeing way to live. The truth is, I read what some of my friends write regarding politics and most recently terrorism and despite the fact that it’s not how I feel I can, in some way, understand their views. They all have deeply entrenched beliefs on which to base all comments, solutions and actions. We all do. We can all spend hours debating one side or the other and there is enough empirical data to support almost every argument. The issue with these social networking debates is that for the most part the parties involved don’t want to hear the other side. They aren’t ready to hear anything that would make them question their life long, deeply held beliefs. And yes, I admit I do it too. So today I read many things that I don’t agree with but instead of dismissing them, I really made an effort to understand them objectively. I only required the following criteria: If what was said came from a negative, non-loving place I would move on. But if what was said came from a truly positive, loving, place than I paid attention. Here’s what I discovered.

I found myself agreeing with some of my Facebook friends I don’t normally agree with because their views come from an honest, loving intention. And their solutions don’t involve hateful, conspiratorial steps designed to divide rather than include. I also found myself disagreeing with some of my friends I normally agree with because their views were coming from a place of anger, fear and revenge. These solutions were divisive and were more designed to argue then solve.  Please understand, my entire reasoning was making a concerted effort to understand why all of us feel the way we do. I came to the conclusion that whenever things are said or suggested with negative emotions involved, solutions seldom follow.

I get emotional too.  And I’ve said and done many things I probably shouldn’t have. We’re human and it’s completely understandable. However, I can’t help but feel there is a real danger with arguing on social media. I say arguing instead of debating because one never involves a solution and the other may. I know if I spout my views about religious liberties, politics, hate crimes, terrorism, gun regulations and other hot topics, there will be those who jump in to tell me all the reasons my views are wrong.  I even know that some of those people will genuinely try to change my mind because they feel I’m lost in a sea of liberal thinking.  Others will triumphantly praise my comments with kudos and add negative comments about the other views.  But what’s the point? I honestly don’t know.

I performed in a serious of children’s plays years ago that were aimed at teaching children. The mantra that was emphasized in the shows (thanks Amanda) was Stop, Feel, Think & Act.  Let’s say a person insults us.  We should first Stop.  Before we say or do anything, just stop.  Then if we let what the person said sink in, let’s identify what we’re really feeling at that moment. At that point we can take what we’re feeling and decide if what we’re feeling is a direct result of what the person said, is it just something we feel all the time.  Finally, we can make a conscious choice whether to Act or not. After all the internal deliberation do we respond, or do we choose to take control of our own thoughts and emotions and walk away.  It seems simply right?  Oh but it isn’t.

I honestly do my best to apply that simple strategy to everything in my life.  I don’t always succeed but when I do I’m so much happier. What I find is, if I don’t immediately respond, I usually am able to deal with any negative comments much easier than if I allow myself to be offended, and therefore respond without thinking. That’s dangerous for all of us.

Here’s my truth. Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone has a reason they have those opinions.  Right or wrong we have to recognize every human being’s right to feel the way they do about things. But, when opinions stem from negative emotions of any kind, I recognize them, and let them go without giving them credence. In my soul I truly feel THAT is the issue facing not only Americans, but the human race. We’ve all lost the ability to just be. We’ve lost the ability to love others as we love ourselves. Please, please, please when a negative thought appears, replace it with a positive one.  When a negative word appears, replace it with a positive one or just don’t say anything at all. When a negative emotion appears, replace it with a positive one and smile, knowing you’re alive when so many more aren’t. When hate appears, replace it with love.

When some lost soul is spewing hate the only response is, I love you.