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Obliterate Hate, RECK

White People: This Work is Ours to Do

One of the projects of Century of Compassion is the RECK Pact page on Facebook. The page is meant to inspire people to treat all people with Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness (RECK). I serve as the moderator of this page and create many of the posts that appear there.

On Saturday, I typed up a post that seemed innocent enough. I had done a few posts encouraging White people to empathize with Black people during this time in which protests have been happening all around the country and even in different parts of the world (Black Lives Matter protests). I had even shared a blog post from this blog there. My idea with this particular post was to dream of a future in which all White people treated People of Color with RECK. It seems highly factual to me that we simply aren’t there, yet (see below for more on this).

The post looked/looks like this:

White People RECK Positive Change

The broad variety of responses to this post have been educational for me. The first round of comments the post received seemed to imply that I was a racist for mentioning White people specifically, instead of saying all people. So, I commented that I was a White person speaking to my fellow White people, and that seemed to help ease that concern.

Still, the most persistent comment I’ve continued to receive is “it goes both ways.” This, I believe, is fair to say in the broad view of nurturing positive change in all aspects of society. However, I feel that within the context of what is happening in our nation right now, it kind of misses the point.

Please allow me to explain. I certainly don’t mean to upset anyone. What I’m trying to express, and what I meant with the original post is that changing the systems that are harming people of color is work that we White people must do. It seems like People of Color could be as absolutely respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind as humanly possible and it’s not going to initiate the kind of systemic change our nation needs so that we will stop harming People of Color, most specifically, Black people. After all, that’s what these protests are about: helping to save the lives of Black people.

For me, the emphasis of this post was on positive change. Again, it seems highly factual to me that not all White people treat People of Color with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. I believe that thinking of all people as equal is a step in that direction. I believe that rejecting White Nationalism is a step in that direction. These are things I’ve written about in the past.

Of course, no one should have to be familiar with all of my writing in order to “get” one of our RECK Pact posts. Still, I believe that positive change is something we all want. And in order to get that kind of change regarding race in the United States, then we White people – all of us (if we haven’t already) – are going to need to change the way we think about and treat People of Color.

Here’s why. Let’s use a slightly different analogy. For example, in order to prevent sexism towards women, we men must learn to think of and treat all women with RECK. That would make a HUGE difference! The reverse cannot be said. Even if all women treated all men with RECK, it would do little to change sexism towards women. Men must do the work of preventing sexism against women and White people must do the work of preventing racism and oppression against People of Color.

This is work that White people can’t and probably shouldn’t do alone. We should do it in partnership and community with People of Color. Personally, I believe that it would be really positive if President Trump would meet with Black leaders right now. I think that would be highly respectful. Of course, no one is asking for my opinion about what the President should be doing.

Here’s the thing, folks! There is no “us” and “them.” There is only one human race. We are all siblings on this big, beautiful, blue/green orb. We need to ease our feelings towards one another. We need to let go of hate and do our best to love one another – even when we are working hard to try to improve things.

It would be my dream to have everyone who reads this post say, “Wow, you know, he’s right.” But maybe some people aren’t ready to hear this message yet. So, I will leave you with this: Work to soften your heart. Do your best to empathize with everyone – even people who are very different from you. Love yourself and try your best to others.

Peace.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

empathy

How to Better Empathize with Black People Right Now

NOTICE: This post contains an imagery exercise that might be triggering for some people.

RESPECTFULLY: There is detailed description of the events surrounding George Floyd’s death. No disrespect is meant towards Mr. Floyd or anyone else. An effort is being made to help people empathize with Mr. Floyd and others.


6/2/20

This post is intended for White people who don’t consider themselves racist, but who are having trouble understanding why Black Americans are angry, and why some events are happening in our country right now. I am writing this as a White person who hopes to be of service to other White people who have a genuine interest in wanting to better comprehend everything that’s going on. I am not an expert on race, but I am an educator on empathy, and will be using this as our inroad.

First, a little context. I think it’s important to understand that George Floyd‘s death did not happen in a vacuum. It was not a singular event. Mr. Floyd’s death while in police custody happened as part of an ongoing series of events in which excessive force was used against Black people by police. And that has been happening inside of a larger context of inequality for Blacks in America. This is all part of a 400 year history of oppression of Black people in the United States of America. That’s a lot to try to keep in mind, but it’s helpful to accept that history in order for us to properly set the stage for what happened to George Floyd and how Black Americans are reacting to it.

Now, let’s take a look at what happened to George Floyd. The police suspected him of using fake money. So, they took him into custody. Try now to get the mental picture of Mr. Floyd lying on the ground in handcuffs. While lying on his stomach with his face against the pavement, a White police officer knelt on his neck. This is a fact. It was caught on video. If you are having trouble empathizing with how it might make a Black person feel to see video footage of this, instead of picturing George Floyd on the ground in handcuffs, picture someone you love.

Do you love your father, or your brother? If you love your brother, instead of picturing George Floyd on the ground, picture your brother on the ground in handcuffs. Now, picture someone kneeling on his neck. Your brother does not fight. He does not resist. He simply says, “I can’t breathe.” Now, wouldn’t you expect the police officer to get off of your brother’s neck? What if instead of getting off your brother’s neck, that police officer stayed on your brother’s neck? What if he stayed there for nine minutes while onlookers tried to help your brother, and other police officers stopped them from helping him. Does this make you angry? If you love your brother then chances are that this thought is making you angry. Now imagine that your brother later died. Now I bet you’re really angry.

This is what we White people need to do. We need to picture these events happening to our brothers or our fathers, or other people we love. Because, when Black people see video of these incidents they are picturing it happening to their brothers and their fathers and maybe even to them. Imagine if you were watching this video and something similar had actually happened to you before. That experience might really be triggering.

It is possible to us White people to better understand the feelings of Black people right now, and our empathy can help us to do that. We need to tap into our empathy and our compassion. Now that you have imagined that it was your brother who died at the hands of the police, imagine that it happened to your cousin last year and a friend of a friend the year before that. Now you might be getting really angry. Now you might be so angry that you feel like marching in the streets!

Now, imagine that you have been marching in the streets asking for police reform for over half a decade and yet these killings continue to happen. That might make you think of upping the stakes a little bit, right? When peaceful protest doesn’t work, you might consider turning to other actions to get attention for your cause… to make people listen. You might be wondering, “What do I need to do to get people’s attention already?!”

This is where we are. Black people are fed up. They started marching in the streets over all of this back when Barack Obama was still president. Now, here we are half a dozen years later and there still has not been any meaningful police reform on a national level. Black people still continue to die at a disproportionate rate to other members of the population.

Here are a couple of other things that might help you empathize with Black people right now. First, we are all human beings. Even though we look different, we are all the same on the inside. What is happening to Black people is happening to human beings who want many of the same things you do. They want to be free to live their best life. They want safe neighborhoods and communities. They want to love and be loved. Also, as stated earlier, Black people are dying in disproportionate numbers at the hands of police, but people of every race are getting killed due to excessive use of force. It’s happening to White people to, just not as much.

So, it is good for everyone to work towards police reform. It will serve us all in the end. A safer system of policing for Black people means safer policing for all people. And that’s a good thing, right? We can have positive change that is positive for all. So, use your empathy to connect with Black people during this crucial time. Get on board with making a brighter future for everyone. Black lives matter because all lives matter.

All the best to you.

With love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Postscript: This was a really difficult post for me to write. And I am deeply sorry if it upsets anyone – especially anyone of color. I truly love all people and want very much for all types of folks to be able to better empathize and connect with one another. I truly believe that respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness are keys to a brighter future for all.

caring, compassion

It’s Compassionate to Wear a Mask

I’m struggling with the reality that wearing a mask during a viral pandemic has somehow become a political act. It truly doesn’t seem like it should be one. Here’s the simple fact of the matter: Wearing a mask will help protect others from catching the coronavirus if you have it (even if you are asymptomatic – meaning that you don’t know you have it, but you can give it to others). It’s not political; it’s medical science.

It’s the same reason that doctors and nurses have worn masks during surgery for a million years. They wear masks to protect the patient from their germs – not the other way around. Cloth masks are not worn to protect ourselves, they are worn to protect others from us.

Yet, somehow this fact of medical science has been politicized. Which is unfortunate, because here’s the thing: facts are just facts. They don’t pledge allegiance to a particular ideology or political party. They just are. And feeling like a fact is socialist doesn’t change the fact. It still is. And it’s not going to change simply because a person doesn’t like it very much.

And the fact that wearing a mask will help prevent you from giving the coronavirus to someone who might die from it makes wearing a mask an act of compassion. That is a truth. It is a truth based upon fact and it is unarguable. Wearing a mask says, “I care about you and I don’t want to make you sick.”

You might not like the truth that wearing a mask is an act of compassion and caring, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It still is. Caring about others is caring about others is caring about others. It doesn’t change based upon your political ideology.

Universal adherence to mask wearing will help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. That’s a good thing. That’s a fact. If we all pitch in and do our part we can help to keep each other healthy. Yay us! Go humans!

So, please don’t think of wearing a mask as a liberal thing or a conservative thing. It’s neither. It is simply an act of compassion and caring that says, “I am doing my part to help keep us all as safe as possible during this pandemic.”

If it makes you feel better to wear a mask with an American flag on it, then do that. You can get one here. But wear a mask. Help to keep the most vulnerable among us safe. Be a hero. We believe in you.

As always, much love to you. Be well.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, RECK

Is Your Compassion at 11?

These are highly unusual times. This pandemic has many – if not all – of us on edge. We are worried about our families and loved ones, friends and acquaintances, coworkers and community members. And as we feel this compassion for the people we care about, it seems like it easily flows to others we hear about on the news or social media who are sick or laid off, working in hospitals or working essential jobs and putting their health on the line for the betterment of all. Plus, there is overlap between all of these groups. So, it might be a friend who is sick or an acquaintance who is working in a hospital.

My point here is this: It seems like almost anyone and everyone is relatable to us right now. We are all in this together. We are all going through a shared experience. And this seems to have had the effect of increasing our empathy and thereby our compassion for one another.

In the classic comedy “This Is Spinal Tap“, while describing his heavy metal band’s amplifiers, Christopher Guest states the famous line, “These go to eleven.” Doesn’t it feel right now as if your compassion is turned to 11? Like you feel for everyone everywhere and want so much for everyone to be well and for this terrible time to come to an end?

Our compassion is turned to 11. We are feeling deeply. Hoping greatly. I’m seeing it everywhere I look. On social media I see people being kinder to one another. More respectful. More caring. If you go out for a walk you might find that the people you pass on the other side of the street give you a friendly wave and maybe even smile and say hi.

And these are just the common occurrences. There are also tremendous acts of kindness and compassion. Parades of cars being formed to celebrate children’s birthdays. People singing from windows. Police departments showing up outside hospitals to cheer on healthcare workers.

There is a beauty in it. Yes, there is pain too. But there is beauty in this heightened compassion and greater empathy. While we are here, while it is happening, the first thing I wanted to do was to identify it. Look at us. Look what we are capable of. Look how good we can be to one another. We can get along. We can care more for one another. We can help support one another and cheer each other on. Go humanity!

Next, I want to say this: practice self care. Compassion fatigue is a real thing. This heightened sense of caring and loving is sustainable, but you have to take care of yourself and manage your own well-being. Humans simply aren’t designed to give and give without taking a little something back to help keep us going. So, take a little time for yourself. Don’t give all of yourself away. It seems like our experience with this pandemic might last a while so care for your heart so that you don’t get overwhelmed or exhausted. Practice the items I mentioned in my last post.

Finally: Dream of a brighter future. Who says that we ever need to go back to the way things were? Yes, of course I want things go back to normal with regard to seeing an end to this pandemic. But what if we don’t need to see an end to caring more for and about one another? Perhaps… now that we have been here… now that we have experienced this.. maybe just maybe this level of caring for one another can be the new normal. RECK can be the way of the future. It’s happening. A society filled with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness is happening right now. And we can keep it this way. We can continue this well into the future. We just need to want to hold on to it. To continue to build upon it. To make RECK for all the new normal.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for turning your compassion to 11. And thank you for joining me in working towards a brighter future. Follow our RECK Pact page on Facebook for more daily inspiration.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Well-Being

6 Tips for Maintaining Emotional Health During Social Distancing

These are challenging times. People the world over are under quarantinedistancing ourselves physically so we can help to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This means spending most – if not all – of our time in our homes. While we are grateful not to be infected with the virus, we might not be so grateful for this type of existence.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl famously said, “everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Keeping a positive attitude in difficult situations can take a lot of self-management. And there are techniques you can use and habits you can form that will help. I’ve done the research and here are six proven strategies that will help you through this difficult time:

1. Develop a Gratitude Practice: First, I highly recommend developing a daily gratitude practice. It might seem strange that I’m suggesting gratitude during a time when there seems to be less to be grateful for than normal, but that’s exactly why it is so important. Having a daily gratitude practice will serve you best on days when there is the very least to be grateful for. Gratitude helps us cull out the one bright spot in a day filled with darkness. Something you could try is keeping a gratitude journal by the side of your bed. Before you go to bed, challenge yourself to write down five things you were grateful for that day. Then, the next morning wake up and read them to start your day on an up note.

2. Keep a Daily Routine: The next thing I suggest – and I think this is especially helpful for those of us with kids at home – (but if you don’t have kids that doesn’t mean you should stop reading) is to create and keep a daily routine. Even if you are at home with nothing to do, it’s helpful to have a routine. Wake up every day at the same time. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Exercise. If this time of staying at home stretches on for a while you will probably find that the days when you feel like adhering to your routine the least are the days when you need it the most. Routine gives your days structure and helps to keep you on track.

3. Create and Maintain a Sense of Purpose: It’s scientifically proven that having a sense of purpose helps people maintain good mental health. One thing I’ve seen suggested to help give us all a sense of purpose during this time is to make a list of all the people you care about and every day choose one person on your list to check on. You can call, text, or Skype, but the important thing is to make yourself useful. Be the shoulder someone else can cry on. Be the listening ear. Be the sounding board. I always say if you are having trouble finding a sense of purpose in life then go be of service to someone else. Even if all you are doing is listening, you are helping.

4. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness can vastly improve your attitude and sense of well-being. It can be spiritual in nature, or it can simply be pragmatic. One mindfulness practice that is simple but effective is to practice mindful eating. You might try it with one meal a day. Simply choose to put your full attention on your meal. Slow down. Focus on the smells, the flavors, the textures. Focus on the act of chewing and swallowing. When you practice mindfulness intentionally some of the time you will find that you are more in tune with your body, mind, and environment all of the time. You’ll find that you take more pleasure in the little pleasures, and maybe that the big pains don’t seem so big.

5. Develop a Spiritual Practice: Some people find that creating and maintaining a practice that is spiritual to them helps to maintain good mental health. Meditation to be a highly accessible and effective spiritual practice. Meditation can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing upon your breathing. But if you’re having trouble getting started, you might try searching the app store with the term “meditation” (“Calm” is one app that gets high marks) or tracking down some guided meditation tracks on your favorite music app.

6. Practice RECK: Finally, if you are at home with other people, I highly recommend using this increased time together to practice your RECK. If you’re familiar with this site, then you might remember that RECK stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. The point of RECK is that it’s easy to remember, because it can take a surprisingly high amount of discipline to practice. If you doubt this, then take a moment to reflect upon the last time that you were either disrespectful, unempathetic, uncompassionate, or simply unkind to one or more of your housemates. You might not need to reflect back very far. The idea of RECK is to help us love one another properly.

Start from a place of respect. Do your best to be respectful of other people’s feelings. If you must fight, then fight fair – don’t say anything that you’ll wish you could take back later. Maybe hold back that real zinger you know you could use but shouldn’t.

Then, make an effort to be empathetic with the people you’re spending your time with. Are you making an effort to see things from their perspective? Keep in mind that this means going beyond mere sympathy which means to feel for others to making the effort to actually feel with them. That’s empathy – to feel what they are feeling; to feel with.

Next, keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. Don’t discount other people’s suffering… rather make an effort to try to relieve it. I find this especially effective with children – even if you are merely helping them learn to help themselves. Their suffering is real to them, and your compassion is real to them too.

Last, but certainly not least, in all things and at all times… be kind. It’s simple to comprehend, but hard do. It means not taking our feelings out on others. Sometimes, we might get irritated, but taking our irritation out on others is unkind – no matter now innocent or justified it might seem at the time. Being kind helps to maintain a positive environment for everyone.

There they are! Six proven strategies to help you stay positive and maintain good emotional health during these challenging times. Pick one or try all six and see how they go. Report back in the comments!

All the best,
Matthew Vasko
Founder, Century of Compassion