Every single day, the world offers opportunities for us to get upset and lose our peace. Between the natural disasters, political chaos, social injustices, terrorist events, mass murders, institutional corruption, health care concerns, the threat of nuclear war, and a range of other volatile and stressful issues from big to small, who could blame anyone for losing their peace once in a while? On top of those issues, there appears to be more social rancor and civil division than ever before in the history of American culture. Not only do these kinds of issues present daily challenges to our peace, but, depending on how we react or respond to them, they also can serve as impediments to the progress of our spiritual walk.
Even social media can be an obstacle to peace.
One does not have to look hard to find any number of potential disruptors to our personal peace, especially in our social media feeds. If you are like me, you likely have a wide range of family, friends and associates in your own social media streams, representing a diverse spectrum of social, political and spiritual perspectives. Factor in the large menu of potential issues that we can all get plugged into, and it becomes virtually impossible to find ourselves in agreement with everyone every single time on every single issue. And, you know what? It’s okay. We don’t have to agree with everyone on every single possible topic or issue. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t have to be disagreeable in the process of disagreeing.
However, it can be a challenge to remember in the moment that we are always at choice about what experience we wish to create. When someone’s oppositional position on an issue near and dear to your heart has triggered you emotionally, if you are not vigilant, you could find yourself throwing your spiritual principles out the proverbial window. Before you know it, you are sucked into a vortex of defensiveness and reactionary anger.
One minute you are having a perfectly peaceful experience. Then, someone “trolls” your most recent post or tweet, and challenges your position on some issue or other. Perhaps they were rude about it too. You might hear yourself say something to the equivalent of, “How dare they attack me on my own page!” I know I have resembled that remark a time or two in my own experience. In point of fact, I resembled it as recently as last week, and twice in the same day. Thankfully, in both instances, I had the presence of mind to remember my personal commitment to walk the Unity talk in all of my relationships and communications, especially on social media. In the conclusion, I will share the strategies I am using to avoid getting plugged into social media battles. But first, let’s take a closer look at what walking the Unity talk actually looks like.
What is the Unity talk we should be walking?
In Unity, we do our best to live our lives in accordance with some basic truth principles intended to facilitate our spiritual development and create a consciousness of unity, oneness and peace. Unity’s second principles holds that every one of us is a Spiritual Being, not just some of us, all of us. We are each created in the image and likeness of God, imbued with a spark of divinity, which we call the indwelling Christ Spirit. In its first principle, Unity also teaches that God is “good.” Because we are created in the image and likeness of God, we too are therefore “inherently good.” Once again, not just some of us, all of us.
Walking the Unity Talk means not only believing these principles to be truth, but also living our lives in accordance and alignment with them. Unity’s fifth and final principle holds that knowing the truth is not enough, we must be willing to live the truth that we know to be true. This would include remembering that everyone is a divine child of God, even the ones that challenge our peace. How to remember that in the heat of the moment and to choose accordingly is the inherent challenge in walking the Unity talk. To that end, I offer the following for your consideration.
Here are five strategies you can use to avoid conflict in social media.
Next time you feel yourself getting emotionally triggered and ready to go into a defensive attack mode, pause for a moment and consider these strategies.
Get neutral before responding. This is an essential first step to not only avoiding conflict in social media situations, but also to creating positive interdependent relationships everywhere in your life. If you only implement one of these strategies, this is the one. Using just this one strategy in all of your communications will save you from what Don Miguel Ruiz calls “needless suffering.” In a blog post from July 2016, I wrote that it takes courage to be neutral in the face of an apparent attack, criticism or ridicule. If you feel yourself being emotionally charged and chomping at the bit to react in defensiveness, do nothing. Take no action until you feel energetically neutral. We have all said things in the heat of a moment that we later regretted. By taking time to restore an energy of neutrality in your consciousness before responding, you will avoid creating further conflict. When others have attacked or challenged you, they expect a reactionary attack from you in return. When you respond neutrally without attack, it upends their expectations, possibly creating an opportunity for true communication.
See the person you are responding to as a divine child of God. This is putting the Unity principles into practice. It is hard to attack someone that you see as a divine child of God. Being willing to see the Christ in others means that you yourself are seeing with the vision of Christ. In other words, as you bring your own indwelling Christ Presence to mind and allow it to inform any response you make, more times than not, you will choose to respond from love, rather than fear and attack. Do not react to anything anyone has said, unless you have first seen the Christ in them. If you cannot achieve that end, it is better not to respond at all. Like my mother often says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” No matter how tempting it might feel to put someone in their place, if you are seeing them as anything less than a divine child of God, you are off the mark and would be best served by staying silent.
Ask yourself: do you want others to hear you? Or, do you want them to listen to what you have to say? For someone to “hear” you, all you have to do is speak, and speak loudly. In the case of social media, TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS SPEAKING LOUDLY. Anyone within ear shot can hear you. Anyone who sees the social media thread can hear you, figuratively speaking. But that does not guarantee they are listening, agreeing or even understanding. Anyone can hear you, especially if you are loud enough. However, actually listening to what you have to say is an altogether different dynamic. Someone who listens is responding with love and is doing so by their own choice. You can force someone to hear you. You cannot force them to listen. Communicating with love invites others to listen to what you have to say. This is an infinitely better strategy if your goal is connection and actual communication.
Consider whether you are advocating for something you believe in, or standing against something that you do not believe in. In today’s social and political environment, many people feel very strongly about taking a stand against something. Resistance has become a strong buzz word, justifying all manner of intolerances. It is helpful to remember that being intolerant of someone else’s perceived intolerance is still intolerance. We have all heard the maxim: what you resist persists. And, it’s true. To move beyond the resistance, we must flip the script from attacking what we don’t support to advocating for what we do support. As Bruce Lee famously said, “Be like water.” Inflexibility is a weakness in the martial arts, and it is an obstacle to peace in all other matters.
Be willing to practice these strategies every day with everyone, in every circumstance, without exception. This is where the spiritual rubber meets the road, so to speak. Practice. Practice. Practice, every day with everyone. As Unity’s fifth principle says: simply knowing is not enough, we must live the truth we know. Further, we must be willing to live it in all circumstances with all people. If we wish to cultivate a consciousness of peace in our lives and make definitive progress on our walk towards spiritual mastery, we must be willing to live our principles consistently and apply them in every aspect of our lives. We are free to choose how and where and when we practice them. We are even free to practice them inconsistently in our lives, or altogether ignore them if we so choose. However, we are not free to ignore our principles and expect peace to be the outcome. If peace is to be in our lives, we must be willing to see everyone as a divine child of God, without exception. Remember, peace is the effect and consequence of the expression of universal love. Seeing the Christ in another is that expression. Once we see the Christ in the person that has pushed our button, then, and only then, should we respond.
These are some of the strategies I am using in my life to avoid conflicts that potentially disturb my peace. They are certainly not definitive. There are certainly others that may be helpful. You may have your own strategies that work in your life. These are merely suggestions I am finding helpful when I feel I am getting a little too plugged in and attached to my own position. Perhaps, they will be helpful to you too, or even inspire you to create some strategies of your own. The bottom line is that if you wish to see your world transform into an experience of love, peace and unity, you must be the love you wish to see in the world. Expressing the love you are is the best way to insure that you are walking the Unity talk. Social media is a powerful platform for the expression of love. Use it lovingly. Peace…