Three Principles Living

Judith A. Sedgeman, EdD

Are There Limits?

Are There Limits?

A good friend of mine, someone who has known me through my whole career, and who has hired me or recommended me several times to work with others, sent me a note after my last couple of Blogs.

“Sadly, although your naivety is touching, I don’t think the Three Principles can help the current world situation,” my friend wrote. “What makes you think you could ever get through to a dedicated terrorist, or to an ideologue who is sure he’s the only one on earth who knows what’s going on, or to an embittered refugee teen-ager who is wandering without a home, having seen his house, his city, his country blown to bits in war?”

I want to answer that question.

I don’t know who we would reach, and who we would not reach. But I do know that, whatever anyone is doing, if it is hateful, angry, resentful, desperate, or violent, that person is caught in fear and insecurity. I do know that people who are deeply mired in insecure thinking do and say terrible things they would never do in a different state of mind. And I do know that the more their insecurity is exacerbated by reactions to the misunderstanding of others, the worse they are. I don’t take their thinking seriously, I know they could change, and I know better than to poke an angry bear. I also know that insecurity is a painful, unhappy state and no one who actually thought there was a choice would choose to stay in it.

I do know it takes a minimum of two people living in a state of insecurity to start a fight, at least two entities feeling threatened and fearful to wage war, a majority of people living in anxiety and hopelessness to elect a despot. I do know the spread of understanding through the world can shift the balance of power. When there are more people living at peace within themselves than not, the tone changes, the balance shifts, and the choices are different. I do know that people who are psychologically at peace choose love and understanding over hate and fear.

There is no cure for insecurity. Everyone has times of insecurity. But there is a cure for acting out of insecurity, for taking insecurity seriously, for believing in insecure thinking, for getting frightened by your own or others’ insecurity. That is what the Three Principles represent and why I believe, with all my heart, that seeing the Principles at work behind life can and will change the world.

What the Principles offer is the certainty that there is a choice and that once people truly see that choice, they cherish it and they do not ever lose hope that others will see it, too. Most importantly, they see the potential for peace of mind in everyone, no matter what they are doing in the moment.

Here is a micro-example that we can extrapolate to a macro-example. I had a neighbor one time who was mean and hateful to everyone. She yelled at anyone who allowed their leashed dog to step foot on her yard; she shook her finger and screamed at people driving by if she thought they were playing their radio too loud or exceeding the speed limit at all; she called the police on anyone walking through the neighborhood who looked “foreign” to her; she complained bitterly from start to finish at any neighborhood gathering she attended. No one wanted anything to do with her. She had a reputation as a nasty, bitter woman. I assumed she was just frightened and insecure.

One day when I was walking by with my dog, she rushed to the edge of her driveway to keep a watchful eye on me, scowling mightily. She was wielding a rake like a weapon. I stopped, keeping myself and the dog well off her property, and said good morning. She glared at me like she had never heard those words before. I told her my name. She didn’t offer hers, so I didn’t push. I pointed out where I lived. She glanced in that direction. I asked her if she had ever had a dog. Her face crumpled and tears almost rose in her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “A Cocker Spaniel. He died of cancer a couple of years ago.” “I’m so sorry,” I said, “No wonder it is difficult for you to relate to neighbors happily walking their dogs.” She wiped her eyes. “Yes,” she said. I asked her if she had lived in our neighborhood a long time . “A few years,” she said. “I hate it.”

I asked her where she was from. “None of your business,” she said, so I backed off the questions. I told her her yard looked pretty. She stood silent. I said, “Well, nice to talk to you. I’ll see you around,” and walked on.

The next time I walked by her house when she was outside, she nodded. I nodded. After a few weeks of occasional nodding, she came to the edge of the driveway again, and this time she asked me if I liked blueberry muffins. I did. She said, “Wait here,” rushed back into her house and emerged with a muffin, still warm, wrapped in a napkin. “I just made these,” she said, thrusting it into my hand, then dashing back into her house. I sent her a little thank you note, telling her the muffin was delicious and I had gone right home and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.

A couple of times after that, I asked her if she’d like to come to my house for coffee or tea. She said no. But she did invite me and my dog across her lawn to the back of her house to see some flowers she had just planted one day. She never yelled at me. We became reasonably good neighbors. After a while, her family came and helped her move to a different place. Her daughter said to me, “She told me you were the only nice person in this neighborhood.”

That’s not true; there were lots of nice people in the neighborhood. (All people, deep-down, are “nice.”) But I may well have been the only person in the neighborhood who wasn’t upset by insecurity, didn’t take insecure thinking seriously in myself or others, and understood that even the most insecure person will quiet down in the face of non-judgmental kindness and understanding. If everyone in the neighborhood knew that, she would not have been labelled a “bitter woman.” Lots of people would have seen her fear, rather than reacting to her nastiness, and felt compassion for her. Instead of avoiding her, others would have taken a moment to chat, ignoring her initial negativity, and she might have started to feel safer. Who knows, she might, after a while, have been baking muffins for the neighborhood gatherings?

Now for the macro-examples. Just consider: What if the neighbors were different political groups? Different ethnicities? Or nations? What if more and more of the neighbors saw the Principles at work behind life and stopped taking the insecure neighbor’s words and actions to heart, but realized what they were — the best insecure thinking can come up with under the perceived circumstances to keep “threats” at bay?

So that is how the world can change. As more and more people rediscover their own inner peace and understand that all of us are just creating our moment to moment experience of life with our thinking and then taking that thinking more or less seriously, depending on our state of mind, the intensity of reactivity will diminish. The very insecure people will find themselves swimming in a clear, warm pool. They will bask in the sunshine of others’ understanding. They may even relax a little bit and find a few moments of peace themselves in a setting in which unconditional love is the prevailing feeling.

You may ask what about terrorists? What about murderous, furious, aggressive terrorists? And I would say, terrorists would repel, not attract, followers and supporters in a world dominated by secure people. There will always be x-many people so entrenched in their thinking that no light penetrates, but the only power they have is the power to draw others who are fearful, confused and unhappy into their sphere. People who are secure and comfortable with the ups and downs we create within our own minds have no interest whatsoever in joining groups that represent nothing but insecurity, desperation and hatred.

The anti-terror campaign that would truly work to change the future is widespread outreach to young people, offering them understanding of how they and others function psychologically, and pointing them to access to their own resiliency, wisdom, insight and creativity. No one who discovers the individual power to think wants anyone else doing their thinking for them, or telling them what they should think.

Psychological freedom, intrinsic to all of us, is the ultimate freedom. With it, quite naturally, comes natural responsibility.

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