Sunday, November 12, 2017

Try to make the world a better place

(My Eastern New Mexico News column for October 11, 2017)

People are always wanting to know the meaning of life. There is probably more than one, but a very good one is: Make your world a little better every day.

You don't have to think big. Start where you are, doing what you can. Begin with easy stuff, but push yourself beyond the edge of your comfort zone.

If you are hurting an innocent person, stop hurting them. Instead of staying silent while someone else is hurting an innocent person, get up, speak out, and don't let it continue. If you see someone being bullied, stand up for them. Even if the bully has power, or if the law is on his side. Especially if the bully is the law.

Confront the bullies with kindness at first, if possible. Don't make them feel bad unless they refuse to stop. If they won't stop, they need to feel bad. Otherwise they are lying to themselves.

If you see some litter, pick it up. If someone is kicking and stomping a toad, rescue it.

If you see someone on a path you believe will hurt them, warn them. If they won't listen, respect their choice. Yes, it's hard to do, but it's right.

Don't mistake errors in judgment for wrongdoing, nor moral shortcomings for crimes. Don't seek to punish people for mistakes. Justice is about honest restitution, not punishment.

Be good, be kind, have worthwhile principles and stick to them. Realize that "good" and "kind" aren't necessarily the same thing. Not all who are kind are good, and sometimes being good means you can't be kind. It's better to be good than to be kind. If your principles get in the way of being good, you need better principles.

After you get practice improving your personal sphere, you have a foundation from which you can spread out into the world, if you want.

If you do choose to expand your influence beyond your home turf, keep in mind C. S. Lewis' warning: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” That would be the opposite of making the world a better place.

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