It seems as though every week that goes by brings news of another attack against innocent lives in some part of the world. Over the past few weeks alone, there have been attacks in Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad and Nice. In each situation, we hear the same kinds of questions being asked: Why did this happen? What can be done to stop this? Where and when will the next attack take place? Each incident has also brought up a similar range of painful emotions, from rage and sorrow to confusion and fear. Beneath all of this is an underlying sense of powerlessness.
Of all these emotions, powerlessness is perhaps the most harmful to us. Not only is it the feeling that such random attacks are designed to provoke, feeling powerless also severely distorts our perspective of the world and leads us to respond in ways that actually serve to fuel and perpetuate acts of terror in the long run.
When we look back at all of the attacks that have taken place in recent weeks, what we see in each situation are the actions of specific individuals leading to a tragic loss of innocent life. It is frightening to think that a few individuals can cause so much harm and pain. But why is it that we can acknowledge and even accept the power of one individual to harm, maim and create terror in the world, yet we struggle to acknowledge the flip side of this: our own power as individuals to create the opposite of terror in the world – unity, compassion and healing? We all have that power.
Many of us, however, do not seize upon our power to create a more loving and peaceful planet because we don’t perceive ourselves as powerful. Instead we feel small and insignificant in the world, and with each attack that occurs, we continue to feel smaller and more powerless.
When it comes to responding to an attack – on both an individual and a societal level – a response based on feelings of powerlessness will severely limit and constrain our choices. For it is when we feel most powerless that we respond with anger, fear and hatred, which is ironically an exact match to that which motivates terrorism itself. The outcome is that it generates more of the same, and so the cycle of violence continues.
What would it look like to respond to terrorism from an alternative vantage point – one that was consciously directed towards generating more peace and harmony on the planet? In my next few posts I will explore how we can begin to step into our power to create the opposite of terror in the world.