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

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

compassion, empathy, family, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Stuck at Home with Family? Practice RECK!

These are unusual times. The novel Coronavirus has more and more states telling people to stay at home and requiring Physical Distancing if we must go out. This puts many of us in a situation where we are “Safer at Home” with the people we love… and getting on each other’s nerves!

Never fear! RECK is here! To save you having to click over to another page to discover what the heck RECK is, I’ll take a moment to explain it here. RECK is an acronym that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is meant as a simple guide to help us treat others in the best way possible. And don’t we want to treat the people we love most in the whole world in the best way possible? Of course we do.

Think of it this way: all people need respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness in order to stay emotionally healthy. When you think about harm that has been done to people, in every instance, one or more of these four principles has been violated. In family situations, most typically the principle we forget to adhere to is to be kind to one another.

Here’s how to utilize RECK at home during this unusual time:

First, do your best to remain respectful towards your family members at all times. This can be a tough one, especially when we are feeling irritable. Disrespectful words are usually those words that we end up regretting later. When it comes to trying to create a harmonious home atmosphere, being disrespectful is a line we simply should not cross. Being respectful towards your family all the time will help you maintain a healthy self-respect. When you are respectful to others, you feel good about yourself.

Next, make an effort to be empathetic towards the feelings of others. This one can be especially challenging with young children. They tend to feel things strongly and are often unable to completely articulate or even understand their feelings. As adults, we have an important role to play in helping them identify their emotions and learn to understand and control them. Remember, empathy is deeper than sympathy. Sympathy is to feel for someone, while empathy requires us to go even further and feel with them. A good way to understand empathy is to remember the adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Then, strive to always keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. This is a tall order. Compassion calls us to feel another person’s suffering with them and then work to relieve it. Compassion, however, is a game-changer for children. Kids feel so often misunderstood and like their suffering is ignored. As adults, we can sometimes wish children would simply “get over it.” But we need to remember that their feelings are very real to them and when we take them seriously and respond to them, children feel heard. Although perhaps more pronounced in children, this is true for all people. And during these stressful times, lots of people might be feeling strong emotions. We all would be well served to hear one another out, take each other’s feelings to heart, and make an effort to provide comfort whenever possible.

Finally, in all situations and at all times: Be kind. If you think this one is easy or trivial, then think back to the last time that you know you hurt someone else’s feelings whether they said so or not. You might not have to think back very far! Kindness is the grease that oils the gears of healthy family dynamics. Being unkind is like throwing a wrench in the works. How often has everything been going just fine at home and then someone did or said something unkind and all heck broke loose? Kindness is the key to unlocking family harmony.

If your family is struggling to get along right now, then make a big sign that says “RECK: Respect, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness” and put it up someplace everyone can see it. Then, make sure everyone knows what all of those words mean and make a promise to treat each other with RECK. You’ll be amazed by how much better everyone gets along.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko,

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Parenting with Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness

Parenting can be a challenge, but it can also be a joy. As parents, we are always searching for tools to help us overcome the challenges and bring us to that place of joy. One set of such tools that has been highly effective for me is learning to parent with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). This transition, which happened gradually for me three years ago over the course of about 18 months, has been absolutely transformational.

The first thing I discovered when I put these tools to use was how often I was completely unempathetic to things my then 6-year-old twins were experiencing. After all, I had been six once myself. And I remember what a strange, magical, and sometimes frightening place the world could be. Harnessing my empathy allowed me to slow down and see things from their perspective. Respect played a part in this too, because first I needed to have a certain amount of respect for the fact that what they were experiencing was very real to them before I could start to empathize with them.

Over time, this experience changed me. I became a much more patient parent. I came to realize that when they didn’t immediately hop-to-it when I asked them to do something it wasn’t because they were defying me, but because they needed a moment to shift gears. Children have full inner lives just like adults and – like adults – children need a moment to process a request, finish up whatever they were doing, and move forward.

For me, compassion was an easy one when something happened to my children physically, but a challenging one when things happened to or within my children emotionally. Compassion, for me, was very much about learning to read my children better. Yesterday, for example, I told my son that I was a little disappointed that he had gone against one of the house rules (it was really just kind of an aside, no big deal). He didn’t react much at first, but about five minutes later he got up from the couch and went to his room. A few years ago I would not have understood what was happening, but thanks to working on my compassionate response I was immediately cued in to the fact that he was beating himself up over what he had done. I went to his room and we had a long talk about the fact that I love him and that he needs to talk to himself the way he would expect a good friend to talk to him. He wouldn’t let a friend speak to him abusively and he shouldn’t speak to himself that way either.

Finally, in all things, I have learned to be kind. The world is a tough place and children need a place to feel safe, secure, and loved. I don’t know about you, but I want that place to be our home. I am constantly conscious of the atmosphere of our home now. If I’m not feeling the love then I make an effort to pump it up. We don’t need to worry about toughening up our children – the world is going to do that to them whether we want it to or not. But we do need to worry about our children’s psychological and emotional well-being. Harm that happens at home and harshness inflicted by a parent can leave scars that last a lifetime. I have adult friends who will testify to this.

In the end, children learn to treat people the way they are treated. If we treat our children with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, then we will raise humans who are respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind. And isn’t that really what we all want as parents?

Much love to you all,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, RECK, respect, Uncategorized

RECK the Holidays for Your Friends and Family!

This Holiday Season, don’t just Deck the Halls, RECK the Halls!

The season of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Years and all the other winter holidays is upon us! It’s time for lots of festive gatherings and hopefully lots of fun. Of course, we know that whenever people gather conflict seems inevitable. Someone is certain to bring up politics or make a hurtful comment and things can quickly take a combative tone.

This year, use the principles of RECK to help you navigate those tricky holiday gatherings and prevent you from saying or doing something you’ll regret later. RECK stands for Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness. Treat all people at the festivities you attend with RECK and things are certain to go better… maybe even the best ever!

Start from a place of respect. Set aside past conflicts and negative feelings and treat everyone respectfully, no matter how they might treat you. You set the tone. Make it clear that you are willing to be respectful no matter what. This typically means observing the Golden Rule and treating everyone the way you would like to be treated. Do your best to be aware of what sets other people off and try not to broach sensitive subjects. For example, if your cousin has been out of work for six months then focus on topics other than your new promotion or how great your job is going.

Next, keep your sense of empathy active and do your best to be empathetic with everyone. Make an effort to gauge the emotions of other people in the room and meet them where they are. For example, if one of your friends just lost a parent this year you might share how difficult your first holiday season was after your parent passed, or ask them how they are doing. Be sensitive to other people’s feelings and do your best to help lift their spirits if they are feeling down… not everyone feels joyful around the Holidays.

When appropriate, make an effort to be compassionate. Again, the Holiday Season can be difficult for some people, especially if they have recently experienced a loss. This can also be true for someone who has recently experienced a break up. If your sister and her boyfriend recently broke up, then do your best to give your sister a little extra attention this year. Spend time talking with her at family gatherings and maybe even give her a call on New Year’s Eve just to let her know you’re thinking of her. Loneliness is worse around the Holidays, so help people you think might be lonely to feel less so.

Finally, in all situations: Be kind. Kindness matters. And it especially matters around the Holidays. You will get so much further with everyone from new acquaintances to close family members by being kind to them. Especially, with family members with whom you have had tension in the past. Being kind to people works like a salve or balm on old wounds. With kindness and time even the deepest of wounds can heal. So, if you and your uncle have always been at odds, surprise him by treating him like your new best friend and he might just return the same back to you.

Make “respect, empathy, compassion, kindness” your Holiday mantra. Repeat it to yourself as you make your way to even the most stressful of Holiday gatherings, and I guarantee that you will have a merrier and more joyful Holiday Season as a result!

Peace and good fortune to you this Holiday Season and always,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion