By Gary W Moore
I always find it fascinating what “triggers” us. As an author and a columnist, I’ve learned to thicken my skin and brace myself for criticism. Anytime any of us put ourselves out there, whether we run for office, create something, or perform publicly, you must expect and accept criticism. It’s not always easy. The biggest surprise for me is that things I write and say that I’m convinced will trigger a reaction, do not. Other times, I’ll say something innocent and entirely passive, and a few will bury me in angry emails.
I recently wrote a column about my love of iceberg lettuce. It was true, but largely tongue-in-cheek. I thought we all needed a break from the stress and vitriol of a brutal election season, so I wrote to change the subject, express my feelings, and hopefully get a laugh. Wow… a few people were terribly upset that I prefer iceberg lettuce over other types of greens. It didn’t upset me. I found it hilarious at the range and volume of the response. I was mildly called as being ill-informed and nutritionally ignorant all the way up to being a liar and spreading damaging untruths! I may be ignorant, but my feelings about my personal tastes are not untrue… it’s how I feel!
Last year, I spoke of the joy I get from chopping wood. Once again, I was attacked for being environmentally irresponsible, even though the only wood we chopped was from already fallen trees. I once wrote a column about losing one sock from every pair in my drawer… again, a few labeled me as stupid and incompetent at keeping a pair of socks together.
I’m not complaining. I love hearing from readers and always use it to make me a better writer, but some of it would be laughable if it weren’t so mean-spirited.
Now, most of the correspondence is positive and encouraging. I appreciate both, so keep it coming. So, why am I sharing this?
I worry about the intensity of the dialogue and actions of so many in our country today. For those triggered over my choice of salad, I want you to step back and ask yourself what has really caused you to be so angry. Think long and hard about it. These types of anger triggers are often a result of an unresolved personal issue. Blaming others is useless. No one can make you act angrily at others without your permission. But some allow it to happen anyway. It’s not uncommon to read about a minor dispute over a parking space that turns into someone pulling a gun and killing another human being. I worry about the anxiety level that allows a person to be triggered so easily over something that really doesn’t matter. This weekend alone, five people were murdered, and thirty-two others wounded in Chicago. Look at this headline from the weekend, “Dog, Eight People Shot in Nashville Over Canine Dispute.” Really?
Then… there’s the election. I’m saddened about the vitriol from both sides and the level of anger it has caused. Millions… maybe a billion dollars in damage nationwide in burning and looting, while in the process, lives have been needlessly taken. We have a national epidemic of anger that is not worth the consequences of the actions triggered. And please. Spare me. Do not blame bad behavior on other bad behavior. Do not blame any politician.
I have a friend. She’s a single parent who is an outstanding mom and community member. I respect her and love her teenage children. I was shocked this week to read her angry, gloating diatribe about the recent Presidential election. I was deeply saddened to read the words she posted on social media. I read others who say they can never forgive those who voted differently. Really? Are we honestly unable to forgive those who think differently? Have we come to the breaking point where we now refuse to love our neighbors if they disagree?
We cannot control the actions or feelings of others. We can control ours. We cannot stop anyone from hurting others, but we can make sure we never raise a fist or a weapon in anger. Violence usually begins with angry rhetoric. Can we start by examining and tempering the words coming out of our mouths?
Let it start with me… you… everyone who is reading this column. I believe anger within us triggers anger in others. Likewise, kindness and love calm the human soul. We have reached a dangerous boiling point across our nation, and it can only be reduced by cooler heads with love and kindness.
I still believe in the human spirit. I believe we are endowed by our Creator with the seeds of compassion and kindness. If nurtured, these seeds can grow within us and change the course of our nation regardless of who is President or whether your socks match.
Can we love thy neighbor regardless of what type of lettuce they eat or who they vote for?
I am optimistic. We are better than this.
Can it begin with us?
Submitted by Gary W. Moore, a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com