The Amazon is on fire. There are concentration camps along our southern border. People live on the streets, hungry and defeated. So many are dying worldwide from preventable diseases. Full-blown Nazis have a growing voice and expanding hatred. Except in our world of suffering, what matters most?
It’s both a blessing and a curse to have a plethora of knowledge at our fingertips. We get frustrated simply from having to wait an extra second for the web page or news feed to load. I too am guilty of impatience, only to respond by sharing a story on social media as a means of awareness.
But we must ask, what matters most? When our days are flooded with problem after problem, constant suffering and ignorance amidst our species, that question becomes increasingly harder to answer. How can we truly make a positive impact when there’s so much we could and should be doing? The most compassionate of us flounder in the rising tide. It takes but one inkling of pessimism to drown.
What matters most is that we each do our best. We take care of ourselves and our immediate loved ones. We stay present and aware of what transpires. Then we take small, impactful steps that perpetuate the good. What matters most is that we don’t allow the seeds of pity and helplessness to flourish. Complacence will be our demise.
Mindfully consume media
What matters most is that we’re conscious of how negative news affects our psyches. If we actively look for suffering and human rights violations, we’ll stumble upon infinite examples constantly occurring. Knowledge is power, but too much power swallows us whole.
Psychology tells us that we naturally look for what’s bad. We give less attention to the “fluffy” stories. Why waste our time watching cat videos when a bold headline pops up depicting a devastating event?
I worked in and studied media in college, so I can quickly tell you that the world of journalism is political and greedy. The broad truth is journalists compete for views and attention in a 24/7 news cycle. The best way to do that? Tug on the heartstrings and emphasize the suffering.
What matters most is that we don’t become passive in our consumption. You’re not going to miss out on an earth-shaking event if you read less news and narrow down your screen time. The tidbits we pick up and ogle really only do us harm, so slow down your scrolling thumb, step back, and see the world through your own eyes rather than those with a blatantly negative bias.
Limit your mission
In a world of suffering, what matters most is that we don’t spread ourselves too thin. If you really want to, you could spend every waking moment studying every problem and disparate population, volunteering every moment to every cause. But that’ll only make you tired.
Just think of businesses that donate to charity. Typically, they denote a certain percentage to one organization that really aligns with their values. Giving a penny to every single non-profit won’t help them to their individual work. Quality over quantity, my friends.
There’s actually a term for this: compassion fatigue. People constantly helping others and doing good can get burnt out very quickly. This leads to crippling exhaustion, isolation, and even apathy. In fact, Mother Theresa encouraged her nuns to take a full year off every four to five years as a break from care-giving. One person isn’t going to save the world.
What matters most is that we each delve deeply into fewer causes that really ignite our passions. We each possess unique gifts and opinions to contribute. There’s a reason why you’re here in this world: the reason why isn’t to help everything at once. Stay informed about multiple areas, but ultimately devote your own energies toward one to three missions. Ask yourself, what do I care about most? Whether it’s climate change, incarceration rates, homelessness, mental health, gun violence, or something else, cheer others on for their causes and focus mostly on the handful of yours.
What matters most is that we realize how far we’ve truly come as a human race. Again, the continual message we hear is that we’re killing ourselves off and taking everything with us. We certainly have much more work to do, but we forget that all of our hard work has made a difference.
In 2015, the percentage of the global population living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent for the first time. This means that now only 702 million people lived in extreme poverty, down from 902 million in 2012 and 1.9 billion in 1990.
More than 150 countries accounting for 90% of global emissions have already made national climate commitments to slash their carbon pollution in the coming years. The trees we have left and continue to plant are pulling more carbon dioxide from the air than ever before, as if nature too is fighting to stay alive.
What matters most is that we find reasons to keep going, to keep doing more. We have the potential to save ourselves and create a better world, but that requires persistence. Everyone doing even just a little bit of good is far more impactful than a minute few taking the whole load.
Stay involved in politics to elect officials who align with the greater good. Find small ways you can reduce your waste, as simple as eating less meat and using less plastic. Donate to charities that are most active in their designated causes. Volunteer in your community, even if it’s just an hour a month.
So, in this world of suffering, what matters most? Long story short: staying human. Staying compassionate. Fulfilling our purposes.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie