You might know a racist, bigot, or zealot in your family or professional sphere of influence, and what you have been trying with them has not really worked. That’s why I am writing this short article of social self-help.
Remember that the core of trying to help others, even those we disagree with is having a heart that’s clean and not twisted, jaded or broken. Part of that means always having integrity for yourself.
What’s interesting also is that integrity is like the wind: You can only feel it if you have it. Once we’ve dealt with our own inner self, we’re ready to engage with others and have impact.
So, let’s start by defining our terms and their best remedy for each type of individual. Remember that the goal here is to change the heart behind actions while still being a caring person in every way.
Racist — someone who preferences their own ethnicity and denigrates, ignores, or callously harms people of other ethnicities. Now I’m not talking about a racist who engages illegally, but one who is otherwise consumed with hatred that often shows itself in narrow attitudes, avoidance, and asinine logic.
Responsive Action: Confront them with love. The only way to get into this sinister person’s makeup is to point it out, but through a heart that cares for them.
Bigot — someone who is widely intolerant of anything other than what comes from their mouth. Think of them as BIG-Oblivious-Talkers.
Reflective Action: Live by example. Don’t expect well-balanced views to grow unless you are likewise fine-tuned. This can be a hard nut to crack, and so by modeling how to be more flexible and caring when people need it most is very important. It also means having persistence, persistence, persistence.
Zealot — someone fanatically prides singular religious world views and cannot understand or care for others but through their narrow lens. Also, a zealot cannot develop deep, reflective friendships that are flexible and caring outside of their circular mindset.
Remarkable Action: Purity does not always have to be faith-oriented but it is spiritual none the less. Your inner beauty in being true to your values with integrity can lighten a zealot’s rigid, inward-looking passion and share the light that is in your world. It’s a start and can lead to growth in a spiritual for everyone in caring, listening, and mutual understanding.
In closing, here’s the truth about the racist, bigot, or zealot even though they might seldom admit this. These three types of people often hide behind structures of privilege. They also may be well-embedded within a part of our world and so finding a way to constructively address their potential power structure, whether real or perceived, can help. But how do we dismantle that, and what can be created in its place?
The above prescription is a part of a beginning for helping to deal with some difficult people in both proactive and caring ways. Of course more work is needed, but this provides a starting point for that work.
I often envision that the right kind of solution involves the right kind of friends. You see, if we develop friendships with people from many social classes, ethnicities, world views, religions, and agnosticism, then it’s both easier to understand new viewpoints but also have a relational point of reference. And with good friends who challenge me towards personal excellence, we can become more well-rounded and balanced enough to help those others who quite truly have inner pain in place of peace.
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Dr. Jonathan Doll wrote the book Ending School Shootings (2015), targeting necessary solutions to a national crisis. He also writes a Huffington Post blog on issues of healthy living and student engagement.