Tag Archives: human nature

Are People Basically Good?

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This week I had a conversation with an acquaintance that really got me to contemplating where we are in our world today. In my conversation, the woman shared her view that she was reluctant to travel anymore because so many people wanted to do harm to others. As I inquired further, thinking she was referring to those with anti-American ideologies, I discovered that she was talking about people in all realms of life.

She revealed that she felt about half the people in the world today were intent on doing harm to others. I shared with her that I felt we weren’t living in the same world because this was not my experience at all. In my experience, people are basically good and it is the rare individual who wants to harm others. I could go so far as to say, no one at their core truly has an intention to do harm, but that’s a deeper conversation about how fear and ignorance lead us astray from our true nature.

Here I’d like to address how we are influenced by what is put in front of us by the media, and perhaps politicians. If we read the news we could easily begin to think we live in quite a dangerous world. Instead I prefer to look at what I actually see every day. What I see is the goodness of people revealed moment by moment, day by day.

If I drop something, someone will immediately be there to pick it up and help me. If I’m lost and need directions, someone will help me. If I fall, people will rush in and ask if I’m okay.

Yes, we do live in busy times and we will find those who will yield to indifference, but we will find so many more who care and want to do good.

In my travels around the world, I have found the same thing. Most people aren’t caught up in the various things we read in the news. Most people want to take care of their families, spend time with their loved ones, and to provide a fulfilling life for themselves. This has been universally true wherever I’ve visited.

I have yet to find a group of people, whether defined by religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, or otherwise, who don’t reflect this same basic goodness. That’s not to say that there aren’t individuals within each group who have gone greatly astray, but the vast majority reflect basic goodness.

I recently heard a politician speaking about how terrible crime is in the United States and how it is a major problem to be addressed. This made me wonder since, statistically, crime rates are reportedly at historic lows. It reminded me how the world we experience is so dependent on the lens through which we view it.

The invitation today is to remember the basic goodness of human beings rather than what is often reflected to us daily in the media and sometimes by politicians. How we see the world is not only revealed in what we experience, but also in what kind of world we are creating for the future.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole offers spiritual coaching to individuals and groups who want to create and live extraordinary lives. For more information, go to gregorytoole.com.

Is Violence a Call to Love?

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As we read and see reports of events unfolding in our world today, it is easy to go into separation, thoughts of “us” and “them.” It is easy to think that there are different types of people in the world and that those attacking us are somehow very different from us. In my travels around the world over the years, one of the most striking observations is how similar we all are as human beings.

While we have varying cultures that inevitably lead to differences in values, our primary values are very similar. No matter where I’ve gone or whom I’ve met, humans all have love as their primary need. Each one wants to be loved, respected, and honored for who they are.

When we see individuals or groups of individuals act out and commit horrendous acts it is much easier to see them as different from ourselves, and perhaps even to move into hatred, fear, or to support acts of vengeance.

One of the greatest personal examples I have of feeling and believing in separation, and regarding a particular group as ones I should fear, is when I helped facilitate a spiritual workshop in Lovelock Prison in Nevada some years ago. When I signed up to be part of the project I was very optimistic, idealistic even, and did not think of the inmates as so different from me. I just thought of them as people who had gotten off track.

But then we began to sign waivers and get many cautions from prison officials about things we could not do inside the prison, and repeated warnings that what works outside the prison walls would not work within them. I began to question my decision to be part of the workshop in the prison. Particularly, I became concerned that my wife at the time was also going into this male prison environment to participate.

However, within minutes of being with the inmates, all of the fears and perceptions of great differences ceded. Being in the presence of the inmates, we felt their hearts, their pain, and their aspirations, all very similar to what we had experienced offering the workshop to people in the world outside the prison. The workshop involved a lot of hugging and physical affection, which we were warned would not be a good idea in the prison. Despite that, we conducted the workshop the same as we would in a setting outside of a prison, and with the same results.

In hindsight, I felt silly to have bought into separation and into believing that somehow I would discover a different type of human being inside the prison walls. I did not. While many of the inmates had committed serious crimes and caused hurt to many, they were fundamentally the same as anyone I knew on the outside. And the greatest similarity is in how we each respond to love and compassion. At our core, we all want to give and receive love.

The lesson is that love is always what is being called for. And ours is to discern how and where we can love more. This solution or conclusions do not excuse horrendous acts committed by anyone; they merely remind us what is ours to do in response to them. We have seen over and over the results of meeting violence with violence, and it has only led to more violence. We have never fully seen the power of a world responding to all acts with love and compassion, a world that seeks out the opportunities to love more rather than the opportunities to blame or retaliate.

Where is there an opportunity for us as a global community to love more? Where could we be doing more to remedy injustices? Where are people in great need, while we sit in relative comfort? Where are the opportunities to foster greater human dignity? Finding the answers to these questions and responding accordingly with loving, compassionate action is our best hope for creating a world free of violence. We can do this!

Enjoy the journey.