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Living with Integrity

I’m currently in Poland with my son. We’ve been visiting the concentration camps, remembering a very dark part of history.

We just left a camp called Sobibor. Approximately 300,000 Jews were murdered on this solemn ground. And the only remaining mark of the extraordinary atrocities that occurred here is an area of dirt covered with stones. It marks a mass grave of about 175,000 people.

As I scan this land, as I recount the many death camps just like it across Europe, I can not escape the question of evil. How could thousands of people comply with a regime that allowed for such immorality, that inflicted this level of organized torture? Could I have been capable of doing so?

Jordan Peterson, a famous philosophy and psychology professor in Toronto, has spent his career studying evil.

He is known for asking his class if they would have participated in the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, no one raises their hands. To which Jordan reply’s, “80 percent of you are liars!”

Such acts of violence throughout history are atrocious and unimaginable. Yet, they keep happening. Does that simply mean that evil recycles itself with every new generation? Are these just masses of bad actors working together? I don’t think it’s that simple.

Put in a situation where our lives or our families lives are at risk, the majority of us will do whatever it takes to save ourselves and our loved ones. Even if that requires us to participate in evil, to sacrifice another’s well-being, to act outside our moral code. We will at least consider the option.

So, how do we live our lives with the least amount of collateral damage? How do we resist evil, on any scale, and live with true integrity?

We choose persuasions of humanity over persuasions of evil. We choose not to live in fear. Hitler preyed upon fear and insecurity. He convinced masses of people to deem Jews the ultimate threat, as the cause of their imminent demise. Annihilating this enemy group was merely an act of defense.
But evil cannot spread when we are living in love, tolerance, and kindness. There is no need for it. These other things provide us with a sense of security and well-being. They persuade us to live peacefully. And this is ultimately what we’re all after.We must ensure then that we are cultivating such a life. We must actively engage in habits and behaviors that put us into a rhythm of integrity. That can be as simple as regularly showing gratitude to those around you. From the man who delivers your packages to your coworkers, family, and friends. It’s even more powerful when you show love and kindness to someone who you wouldn’t typically. Maybe you volunteer for a day at a homeless shelter, maybe you take the time to explore a different culture or religion than your own with curiosity and acceptance. Additionally, we must never forget that evil exists. That good people are capable of doing bad things. We must get to them with love and kindness, first.

This week, step into the rhythm or step it up. Messages of fear and hate are always out there looking for an ear. Yet, every action we take can have a positive and protective impact. From a smile to a respectful interaction with a stranger. It is our responsibility to drown out hate with messages and acts of love and kindness.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community


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