“Hurt people hurt people” said Kanye West and he got that right—for him. And that buffoon he supported (and still does). But if you’re the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu, both born into grinding poverty, the one exiled from his homeland and witnessing the takeover of his culture and the other growing up under the severe racist regime of apartheid, you become two of the world’s most beloved figures who devoted their life to healing, love, justice and kindness. They are both featured in a book and short film titled “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.” Watching excerpts from the film is so inspiring, as the two leaders banter back and forth like little boys, so playfully teasing and enjoying each other with humor mixed with profound depth and respect for each other’s work.
So what is the difference between people so deeply hurt and wounded in their young life who come out the other side and transform their trauma into healing and those like “He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named” who throw their weight around to harm and hurt, to continue inflicting others with traumas? It feels important to understand that though we all would wish for a childhood and adulthood free from the random slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or the purposeful assault weapons aimed to hurt the innocent and build-up the false sense of self-worth in the gunmen, it is not the trauma itself that sentences us to a lifetime of misery and hurting others. It is the reaction to it, what we choose to do with it, whether we mindless or purposefully pass it on or whether we draw the line and take responsibility for our own sense of well-being.
Though I’m not a believer in the Judeo-Christian monotheistic divine being, it is worth noting that there is a “God-Factor” at work. Doesn’t matter if “God” has a Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or other name— it’s simply the connection to some spiritual force larger than our small self-serving ego. Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa worked within the Christian notion, the Dalai Lama with the Buddhist, Gandhi with the Hindu, Sandra Lawson with the Jewish, Rigoberta Menchú within her indigenous Mayan cosmology and so on. Of course, there are plenty of important social activists and artists who help heal with their art that have no religious affiliation, but it seems to help put one’s personal wounds inside of the larger context of a spiritual purpose. A reach apparently far beyond the Ye and the Donald and their ilk.
So my formula for the world we all deserve is “First, do no harm.” But knowing that harm will be done, accidentally or on purpose, the next step is to learn how to work with it, how to refuse the notion that “hurt people have to hurt people” and consider that “hurt people can help heal people,” and in fact, do so more effectively because they recognize their common wounds.
Can we please start teaching this in schools? Talking about this at dinners instead of comparing our new version of i-Phones? Bringing these conversations into the workplace? The church or temple? It would be a start.