compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Uncategorized

We Need a Revolution of Connection

Do you ever feel a longing for connection? Real connection? More than another text or email, or even another casual conversation? In our fast-paced, screen-time-heavy world, it seems like we are drifting further and further apart from one another.

This is not to say that we have ever been that socially connected in my lifetime. A child of the 80’s, I feel like I was practically raised by the television – long before smart phones came along demanding our attention.

Perhaps there was a time when communities were closer knit, but it hasn’t been in my lifetime. Essentially, I find myself longing for some Utopian past I never knew. Or perhaps it never really existed to begin with. Who knows.

But here’s the thing. It sure does seem like we could reduce the amount of conflict in the world if people would just sit down and talk to one another. How are we ever going to work out our differences if we keep splitting ourselves into smaller and smaller factions?

We need a revolution of connection! Meaningful connection – deep conversations where we work through our misunderstandings and disagreements. This is the kind of connection where trust is built and where genuine community takes shape.

Our fast-paced, cold, indifferent world needs reflection on connection, a Renaissance of nuance, and a renewed unity of community!

And of course I feel compelled to add that as we undergo this revolution of connection, we must strive to treat one another with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. Honestly, I find these qualities lacking in our modern world as well. We are all perfectly capable of treating one another better, but it takes self control and a determination of will. It begins with us wanting to do better.

So, find ways to connect with others in a meaningful way. Unplug. Get real face-to-face time with others. Schedule unstructured time with your family with no screens and lots of conversation. Go out for lunch and coffee with friends. Make time for connection.

Join a church, social organization or bowling league. Heck, join a group you disagree with and work towards changing them from the inside. Just get out there!

Real connection takes real effort, and it is worth it. It pays big dividends with regard to improved mental and emotional health.

So, answer your inner call – your yearning – for connection. Let the revolution begin! And you’ll be glad you did.

Love to you, always.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, Obliterate Hate, RECK, respect

The Antidote to Hate

In my last blog post, I made the argument that we humans as a species need to evolve beyond hate. Hatred simply does not serve us anymore. It causes death and destruction, and ultimately holds us back from ever achieving any kind of lasting peace.

When it comes to finding ways to reduce hate, we must be students of respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). When combined, these values can help us to reduce the hatred within ourselves and between individuals, societies, and cultures. RECK can, essentially, be an antidote to hate.

Let’s start with respect. While it is true that humans often respect their enemies, that kind of respect comes from fear of an enemy’s power. That’s not the kind of respect that I’m referring to. I’m referring to respect for life. We must first acknowledge that all life is sacred. All life has value. It is wrong to kill. We must have a basic level of respect for all human beings that makes us respect and value life. We must be able to say that everyone has the right to live in peace – even people with whom we disagree. This level of respect will help us reduce our hatred by at least a little bit, by at least enough that we don’t want to kill our enemies or those for whom we feel hatred.

Next, we must tap into our empathy. We must try to empathize with people for whom we feel hateful feelings in order to try to understand what it is about them that makes them perhaps hate us or feel malice toward us. Often, when we stop to think about why someone might hold negative feelings towards us, we think that surely it must be because they misunderstand us or our intentions. Perhaps we misunderstand them too! Perhaps if we got to know them better then we would not hate them. Upon reflection, we would probably conclude that they are ultimately not that different from us. They probably want many of the same things we want. Things like peace, life, love, happiness, security, and well being for themselves and their loved ones.

Now, we move on to compassion. Surely, we can recognize that all living beings suffer. And if we suffer then the people we feel hatred towards surely experience suffering too. Think about what kind of suffering they might have. It may be possible that we have done something to cause their suffering. We need to search within our hearts, and through our empathy connect with the suffering people with whom we disagree might be feeling. Our compassion can move us to want to relieve this suffering. Perhaps there is something we can do to help this person or these people so that they will not suffer so badly. If we help to reduce their suffering then they might no longer feel malice towards us. Or at least not as much. Compassion can help us to feel less hatred. Compassion can help us turn hatred into love.

Finally, let’s look to kindness. There is an interesting quality to kindness. It is this: when we are kind to people it makes us like them more. Have you ever noticed this? It’s true. When we behave kindly towards people we dislike or even hate, we come to like them better. Also, when we are kind to others it increases the chances that they will be kind to us in return. Kindness begets kindness. And so it goes, on and on, and kind acts build relationship and good feelings.

This is how RECK can serve as an antidote to hate. We must teach our children to have RECK for all, and by doing so, we can help them to love all people and help them not to hate. Also, if we practice RECK, it might help other adults to practice RECK in turn. And over time these positive acts will grow and multiply. Over time… years and even decades… we can continue to reduce the hate in the world until we have wiped it away for good. It will take time and practice, but it can be done.

Practice RECK for all. And you will see positive results in your life and in the world around you.

Peace.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, respect

All You Need is RECK

Have you ever come home after a hard day in the grumpiest of moods? You walk in the door, greet your family with a grumble, and then proceed to bark, snap, and maybe even yell at them for the rest of the evening?

Once you are feeling better, you might wonder why you treated them that way. After all, they are the ones you love the most and you might have treated them worse than you treated anyone else all day. “Next time,” you think, “I resolve to do better.”

Love is a wonderful thing. We are fortunate when we have people in our lives whom we love and who love us in return. But there aren’t really any ground rules to love, are there? We sort of have to make it up as we go along and we can probably think of some examples of times when we feel like maybe we weren’t loved properly. Perhaps our parents loved us, but they were highly judgmental of us. Or perhaps we had a romantic partner who loved us, but was controlling.

We need to be careful about love, because love done improperly can be harmful and a source of pain. This is where RECK comes in. RECK stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It can be helpful to roll those four values over in your mind while you are thinking about how you want to treat the people you love.

Personally, I believe that we should treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. And I believe most strongly that we should treat the people we love this way. This way, we will love them in a way that is tender and caring. We will love them in a way that heals and does not harm.

If you resolved to treat your family – the people you love the most – with RECK, then even when you come home on your very worst day in the grumpiest of moods, you will still be respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind towards them. You will still seek first to be gentle, because kindness and compassion call us to be gentle. You will not yell, or bark, or snap, you will give hugs and support.

The beauty of RECK is that it doesn’t simply say “love one another,” it tells us how to love one another. First, be respectful – don’t trample all over people’s feelings and concerns, have respect for them. Next, be empathetic – treat the people you love the way you sense they need to be treated, try to get an idea of what is going on with them. Then, have compassion – maybe the people you love had hard days too, maybe they need some tenderness and affection. Finally, and at all times, be kind – it can be challenging to be kind when we are in a bad mood, but it is possible – we need to learn to control our emotions instead of letting our emotions control us.

This is RECK. This is what it’s all about. Keep those four values at the front of your mind and I promise you that they will not let you down. They will help you build a better life – both for yourself and for the people you love.

With love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, RECK, respect

A Brighter Future is Possible

What if…

What if we worked harder to understand people and meet them where they are?

What if instead of struggling to have our own way we made space for others to have their way once in a while?

What if we all put the well being of others ahead of our own self interests?

What if leaders of nations would work harder to resolve conflict than to drive conflict to the point of war?

What if everyone treated everyone else with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness?

Humanity is so very driven toward advancements. Advancements in technology. Advancements in science. Advancements in medicine. It’s time that we make a major advancement in the way that we treat one another. Century of Compassion and RECK are about this kind of advancement. A brighter future is possible, and it’s going to take all of humanity learning to treat one another a little better.

Just as we strive never to accept the status quo with regard to medicine, science, and technology, we must not settle for the status quo with regard to how we treat one another. It’s time to raise the bar. We can do better.

This century is still young. There is time to turn it around. And we need to spread the word. RECK is an acronym that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. With these four key ingredients we can and will create a better tomorrow.

There is no need for war. There is no need for genocide. There is no need for starvation and other forms of human suffering. There are 7.7 billion of us living on this planet and we need to learn to take better care of one another.

We need to start from a place of respect. Respect others so much that you would never think of doing harm to them. Then, move on to empathy. Learn to empathize with others so that you want them to be well and have the same things you have. This will drive you to compassion. Have true compassion for everyone and help to relieve any suffering that they might be experiencing. Finally, be kind. Yes, kindness matters. We all have it within us to be able to be kind to all people, we simply need the will to express it.

Keep striving. Keep working for a better future. We’ve got this. We can do this! We can make a small difference every moment of every day by how we treat those around us and we can make a big difference over time by helping to spread the message of RECK.

So, join the RECK Pact movement on Facebook. Volunteer for a local charity that addresses a cause you are passionate about. You can make a difference. The future is in our hands. Onward.

Love, Tolerance

Why We Must Reject White Nationalism

The United States has seen an increase in White Nationalism in recent years. It is made manifest in the Alt-Right movement, an increase in hate crimes, and an uptick in hate and bias in schools.

Just because White Nationalism is on the rise though does not make it proper or correct. We must reject White Nationalism due to the fact that it is based upon a false premise. White Nationalism assumes that some group of factors ascribed to someone’s appearance makes them somehow superior to others who look differently. This is absurd!

Take skin color for instance. We know based upon scientific fact that melanin determines skin color. The more melanin you have in your skin the darker your skin color will appear. End of story. We can’t ascribe any attributes to a person based upon their skin color other than they have more melanin. The amount of melanin in your skin has nothing to do with your intelligence, your values, or anything else. I am a white male and to say that I am somehow superior because I have less melanin in my skin is preposterous and – frankly – silly. Therefore, White Nationalism or White Supremacy of any kind is simply wrong-headed.

We must all own the fact that all people are generally the same. No matter what our skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else, we all want and need food and shelter, we all want to love and be loved, and we all want to be respected and to be free to live our best lives. We are not so different. We should love everyone no matter what they look like, where they come from, whom they love, or  what their religion.

Look for the similarities in others. Find ways to empathize with everyone with whom you come in contact. I promise you will find that we all have a great deal more in common than we have in difference. Open your mind and heart to loving all people and you will find that we are truly one great sibling-hood of humanity. 

I say all of this and I must add that I do not and will not hate White Nationalists and White Supremacists. They’re not unredeemably bad people. They’re simply wrong. I believe that with time and with enough love we can change their hearts and minds.

Over time we will prove that we are all quite similar. Peace is possible. But it will take time and a great deal of love. So keep loving! Keep extending respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness to all people. The world will be the better for it, and so will you.

Matthew Vasko

Founder & CEO, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, respect

How to Fix America

From sea to shining sea, The United States of America has a problem. We see it made manifest in school and church shootings, in protests that erupt into violence, and in small ways in confrontations on our social media feeds. America has a hate problem.

In recent years, we Americans have divided ourselves into smaller and smaller groups based upon a variety of factors from race to class to political affiliation. It is creating a growing us vs. them mentality that is pitting brothers against brothers and daughters against mothers. Americans are drawing lines in the sand and painting everyone on the other side of the lines as their enemies.

If our current pattern of behavior continues unabated the result will be only greater and greater acts of violence that could lead to an all-out civil war. There is no doubt that our divisions are pulling us apart from the inside. We need to break the pattern of violence and hate, but how?

The first thing we need to do is to stop making enemies of one another. I believe this starts by refusing to think of each other as enemies. The problem with thinking of people as your enemy is that you start imagining them doing all sorts of horrible things which escalates your internal hatred of them. Prophetic thinkers such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. realized that in order to maintain a nonviolent attitude we must not think of people as our enemies, even when they are in clear opposition to us. We need to separate the people from the negative value or principle we associate with them. For example, people who hold racist views are not my enemy: racism is my enemy.

We must fight the internal struggle to love all people regardless of what those people might think or believe. People can change and we need to give them the freedom to do that by separating them from the thing about them we oppose. We need to realize that we have more in common with everyone than not – even with people who are in opposition to us.

What I mean is this. We human beings really aren’t all that much different. We all want the same things. We want to be respected and loved, we want people in our lives whom we value and love, and we want sustenance, security and shelter. Yes, there are things that divide us, but there are universal wants and needs that we all share in common.

We need to continue to seek out the commonalities with one another and stop dwelling so much upon our differences. We need to have meaningful dialogue with people who are different than us and get past our differences to find our commonalities. The more we seek out the commonalities with one another the more we will empathize with one another and the more that we will care for one another. Through empathy and caring, love can overpower hate, but it takes time and meaningful dialogue.

Sharpen these four tools and keep them in your toolbox. They are respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness.

Show respect to all people – even people whose philosophies you oppose. Remember that you need to give respect in order to get respect. Give it freely and hope for it in return. Show that you are a big enough person to be able to have respect for all – even those who are in opposition to you.

Look for similarities between yourself and others in order to find ways to empathize with them. Know that empathy is possible with everyone. We are all human beings and we share so much in common. Know in your heart that you are more alike than you are different from every single person on the planet.

Reach out to everyone with compassion. Know that all people suffer. It is a simple fact of life. To live is to suffer and therefore we can all identify with and have compassion for the suffering in others. Having compassion for other’s suffering can cause them to reframe how they view you. Perhaps they will find you to be a good person and learn to love you.

Finally, move through the world with an attitude of kindness. We humans tend to undervalue kindness, but kindness can lay a foundation for all sorts of positive interactions. Entering into difficult conversations with a mindset to maintain an attitude of respect and kindness toward the other person can help you overcome a lot of obstacles and keep the conversation cool and comfortable for both parties.

So, there it is. America has a hate problem. But we can overcome hate by refusing to make enemies of one another and approaching each other with an attitude of respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. Love truly can overpower hate, but it takes vigilance and a great deal of self control. Keep on reaching out into the world with love and you certainly will change hearts and minds.

Matthew Vasko

Founder & CEO, Century of Compassion

Acceptance, compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Tolerance

Why RECK Pact?

It feels like eons ago now, but way back in 2005 I had the desire to create a new vision for our young century. The 1900s had been the bloodiest and arguably most violent century in the history of the world. There were more deaths from war and genocide than ever before in the world’s history. We were only half a decade into our new century and things weren’t looking much better. The United States was fighting wars on two fronts and many parts of the world were in conflict.

My plan was to help people take on a new vision for our young century – for them to envision a century defined by compassion instead of violence. This is how Century of Compassion was born. After several years working on Century of Compassion and sharing my vision, I realized that compassion alone wasn’t enough to change the ways in which people interacted with one another in any significant way that was going to lead us toward a brighter and more peaceful future.

I spent several months in the summer and early fall of 2017 reflecting upon what had been most effective in the ways we interacted with people through our Century of Compassion events. I came to realize that the crucial ingredient that helped to spark positive interactions with people was respect. It’s amazing. It doesn’t seem to matter who the person is or what their station in life might be, being treated with respect always seemed to elicit a positive reaction. Through respect, you can create immediate connections with people. I also learned this through my classes I have taught to school children. As early as ages 5 and 6, respect is a hot-button issue with people. Everyone desires to be respected and to be treated equitably.

Next, I considered what allows us to go deeper with people when we are developing relationships. This led me to empathy. People love it when you “get” them. Everyone wants to be understood. And to truly meet people where they are you must empathize with them. Empathy deepens relationships and leads to a clearer understanding of one another.

This led me back to compassion. After you establish respect and empathy with people, then you begin to have compassion for their suffering. Everyone suffers. This is a basic fact of life. I truly believe that it is impossible to have genuine respect and empathy for people and not have compassion for them as well.

Finally, I noted that interactions and relationships would inevitably fall apart if there was not also kindness built into the scenario. Ultimately, all of our relationships hinge upon the kindness and love that we share with one another. This sustains relationships. Without loving kindness, indifference develops and things eventually fall apart. Kindness begets kindness and thus our relating go on and on.

Tolerance and acceptance of one another also play a role in our relatings and relationships, but I tend to feel that these develop over time. They have to be built upon a foundation of genuine respect and empathy. Ultimately, everyone desires to be accepted for who they are. Everyone wants to be loved for their whole selves – for the good in them and in spite of that which they themselves see as bad. Everyone needs this kind of acceptance. And, starting from a place of respect and empathy heading towards compassion and kindness gives us a path to get there.

I realized that when I put the words in order by first letter I came out with the acronym “RECK.” When I looked up the word reck in the dictionary I was pleased to discover that it means “to have concern or regard.” It is the root word for words like “reckless” and “reckon.” How perfect that the word that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness means to have concern or regard! For truly, if we have concern and regard for other people then we should treat them with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness.

I launched a bit of an experiment by starting a RECK Pact Page on Facebook. Here, I call people to pledge to treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, regardless their differences. I also provide daily doses of inspiration to help people uphold their pledge. Please check out our RECK Pact Page and like it if you wish to agree to treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness.

I still believe a century defined by compassion is possible. And I believe RECK Pact is the path to get us there.

Thank you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder & CEO, Century of Compassion