Mother Teresa is quoted as saying “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
I finally understand what she meant. The energy flow and the emotions must be completely different – one group is focusing on what they don’t want; the other is focusing on what they do want. I’m going to bet that if we were hook up protesters at an anti-war and those at a pro-peace rally to an EEG, there would be a stark contrast.
Our perception is the filter through which we see the world, which in turn dictates our feelings and behavior. For example, when I was feeling particularly miserable, I kept running into people and situations that prolonged my misery: Within a span of half an hour, I bumped my head getting into my car, broke my heel, and got pulled over by a cop. When I finally made a conscious effort to pull myself out of my melancholic mood my perception changed, as did what was going on around me. All this came to mind when I was reading through some trending tweets over the weekend. There is so much hostility on social media these days, and all it seems to be doing is breeding even more.
When we look at the world through a filter of anger, cynicism, and hatred, that’s all we will see around us, and data from our Hostility vs. Kindness Test seems to back that up: Essentially, people who scored high on hostility are more likely to view the world as a hostile place in general. For example:
- 67% believe that the majority of people are dishonest.
- 74% believe that non-profit organizations use their donations dishonestly.
- 89% believe that people who are nice usually have an underlying motive and/or want something in return.
- 91% believe that the majority of people will stab you in the back in order to get what they want.
- 24% believe that homeless people are lazy and worthless, 16% see them as a burden to society, and another 16% conclude that homeless deserve their fate.
Scary, right? Here’s what else our study on hostile people reveals:
- 88% tend to hold grudges…for years and years.
- 68% have taken revenge on someone by destroying their property.
- 75% have withheld money, sex, or information in order to gain leverage over someone.
- 74% have talked about someone behind their back in order to ruin the person’s reputation.
- 83% point out other people’s flaws, no matter how minor.
- 87% admit that they frequently display intense dislike for others.
- 93% lose their temper easily.
- 76% use intimidation to get what they want.
- 69% said that seeing weakness or flaws in others disgusts them.
- 33% believe that they have every right to impose their morals and principles on others.
And frankly, it seems like the majority of tweets and posts on social media right now have this kind of vibe to them. I saw a post this morning from a woman who indicated that the women who marched on Washington over the weekend did not represent her or her beliefs …and then went on to say how she hates the majority of women anyway. A feminist friend who has very strong political opinions read the tweet out loud to me.
“How are you going to answer?” I asked.
“I won’t,” she answered. “There’s no point.” She then proceeded to close her phone and returned her attention back to her lunch.
I thought about her answer for a while. What does it say about her, or about me for that matter, to allow that tweet to float around in cyberspace, unchallenged? It felt wrong to ignore it. But then I understood what she meant: There’s no getting through to people who embody that much hostility. They see the world their way, and no matter what you tell them, they won’t see it any other way. Why would my friend want to add her own anger to that mess? So rather than expend all her energy answering back to angry posts, she simply supports those that demonstrate respect, love, and unity.