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, 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

Do You See All People As Equal?

I grew up in a small Middle American town and it seemed like there was always a lot of emphasis placed on social hierarchy. There was a lot of discussion about who was from “good” families and who was from “bad” families. People also seemed to struggle to elevate their station within that social structure. It seemed like people compared themselves to one another a lot. There was a great deal of concern about who was better than whom and why. People were ranked by the size of their homes, the clothes they wore, the type of car they drove, and on and on and on.

After college, I moved to larger cities. There seemed to be less of this – at least among my twenty-something friends. But it still existed based upon people’s ages and what types of jobs they had, clothes, cars, etc. It still existed within me, too. I found myself constantly comparing myself to others. Constantly wanting to do better, to be more, to “make something of myself.”

As I’ve gotten older – I’m in my mid-forties now, I’ve worked hard to shake off these types of feelings about myself and others. Now, I tend to gravitate towards or away from people based more on how strong of a connection I feel with them. I make an effort to decide whether or not I want to spend time with another person based upon the content of their character. I make a conscious effort to view all people as equal, despite all of the traditional markers I once thought I was supposed to use to measure people.

Recently, I started an interesting experiment. All day, every day, whenever I interacted with anyone I would say to myself “equal” as I looked at them. I would even picture the word EQUAL above their head. The results of my little experiment surprised me. I discovered that this practice caused me to slow down and take a deeper concern in people. Now, the server at the restaurant was not simply someone there to take my order and bring my food, but a whole person just like me who was equal to me in every way. They might be having a good day or a bad day. They have a full compliment of feelings and concerns, just like me. They are equal to me.

I found that the practice caused me to take more interest in people. I tended to engage them in more meaningful conversations. I wanted to get to know them a little bit, even if our time together was only temporary and maybe only to provide a service. My interactions were different. More thoughtful. deeper. More human.

Seeing people as equal to me has also been good for me in situations where the social hierarchy would place the other person above me. For example, with my boss or with respected members of the community. I’ve often found myself more at ease with them. I’m more apt to make a joke or tell a story. Again, to just be human with them.

This has been a healthy experiment. Letting go of social conventions and making an effort to see everyone as equal has not been the blow to my self esteem that I thought it might be. On the contrary, I have found that seeing everyone as equal has been healthy for my self esteem. If everyone is equal then I’m as good as anyone else. If everyone is equal then I can have more concern for everyone regardless of their class and when I care more about others I feel better about myself.

Do you view all people as equal to you? Do you view yourself as equal to all people? Maybe try my experiment and see how it changes the way you move through the world. Picture the word EQUAL hovering just above everyone’s heads and reflect upon how that changes the way you view them. Do it with everyone… the large person, the small person, the old person, the young person, and people of every skin color and style of dress. Everyone.

What if there was no social hierarchy? What if we all abandoned stacking ourselves up against one another? What if we truly treated all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness? All people treating all people that way. It might truly transform the world.

Peace and good wishes to you always.

Matt