Reducing Suffering in the World
I just have to scroll through my Facebook feed each day to catch a glimpse of some of the suffering going on in our world right now. Many of my Facebook friends are visibly distraught and anxious. They share articles, cartoons, memes - anything they can to show their friends how messed up they feel everything is. Underlying all of this is a sense of powerlessness and despair.
And this is understandable. It is understandable that we may feel powerless when we hear about an atrocity that is occurring on the other side of the globe - and the suffering that it's causing. Maybe it's extreme poverty or genocide or war. Especially for those of us who are sensitive and empathic, we may have this burning desire to do something, anything, to help alleviate the suffering. But we often just don't know what we can do.
Especially for something like a war, it wouldn't really be feasible for us to fly into a war-torn area to try to single-handedly get the different factions to stop fighting and killing each other. That would likely be even less effective than posting about it on Facebook haha - as far as affecting any real, substantive change.
So the question is, what do we do then? Where do we go from here? Most of us intuitively know that posting about the suffering in the world on Facebook isn't really moving the needle in any meaningful way. In fact, for most people, it just serves to perpetuate their anxiety and further entrenches them as a victim to their own perceived powerlessness. It can hold them stuck and make them depressed. It can make them feel like there's nothing they can do to help the world.
And it's true that solving the poverty in Liberia. The genocide in Myanmar. The war in Afghanistan. These are not things we can reasonably expect to do on our own. So if we keep our focus on these individual events or circumstances, we will always feel disempowered and lacking in our capacity and resources to help improve things. We set ourselves up for guaranteed failure.
Therefore we must begin to look at the suffering on the planet as a whole. What are we actually empowered to change? Where is our power? What can we actually influence? The answer to these questions, as you've probably guessed, is ourselves. Instead of focusing on specific happenings that we don't have any real control over and can't do anything about, we can look at the entirety of human suffering as a whole and the role we can play in helping to alleviate it.
So how can we do this? How can we reduce the suffering of the world? We do this by adding to its overall wellbeing on a personal level.
We can smile at a stranger. Give someone a hug. Spend quality time with a friend. We can encourage and inspire others to reach their goals. We can acknowledge things that we are grateful for in life and spread gratitude. These are all things that we are empowered to do - that add to the overall wellbeing of the planet.
"Be the change you want to see in the world." Gandhi said. Well, actually I just Googled that and apparently he did not say that haha. What he said was:
"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” -Gandhi
We can only teach others by example. This is the concept of energetic leadership that I frequently talk about. It is by becoming the solution to a problem that we are able to show others how they can actually do it for themselves. This is true empowerment.
There's a huge difference between just talking about a problem - and actually doing something to help solve it. One has an energetic sense of lack, of complaining, of fear - while focusing on the solution will always feel energizing and empowering.
And so, on a bigger picture level, working towards making our lives work for us is the greatest thing we can do to reduce the overall suffering of the world. This means working towards happiness and fulfillment in all areas of our lives. From our physical health to our relationships to our jobs to our emotional, financial and spiritual wellbeing. It is the path of committing to figuring out how we can reduce the suffering within ourselves - so that we can be the solution to the problems we perceive in the world.
Everybody's path will be individual and unique. But the "destination" is ultimately the same for everyone. The more we focus on nurturing happiness and inner peace within ourselves, the more we allow others to do the same. It is in this way that we can directly affect and contribute to the overall wellbeing of the planet - as it is the sum of our individual suffering that makes up the suffering of all.