I am no longer living my life so that people will be happy with me. My choices are mine - I own them and I am responsible for them, and I'm not responsible for anyone else. Others can judge me, and be as mean as they like about me, but it doesn't have to take away my peace of mind and my joy.
This is what it means to be kind when others are not. It's damn hard. It's much easier to be vengeful and cruel in return, but that doesn't make me a better person, and it certainly doesn't have the power to change the world.
I don't want to react from a place of brokenness any more. We are all damaged, and messed up, and wounded, but continuing the same circle of blame and one-upmanship doesn't alter the negative pattern. There is nothing inspiring in living that way.
If we want to rise above, we have to cry those genuinely painful tears, and then make an active choice to take the high road; to refuse to engage by fighting in the trenches. There has to be a better way, and it's up to each one of us to improve our side of the interaction.
Sometimes it's ugly for awhile, and we fail in our quest to not meet anger with more anger. That's what riots are about, but if we give in to a mob mentality, we have lost all ability to control ourselves.
Peace comes from restraint, not from giving in to our base urges. It's easy to gossip, or fan the flames of rage against someone who may deserve it, but it's so much harder to step back, take a deep breath, and decide to sacrifice the momentary release you will feel for the quarter inch of personal growth you will experience that can last you a lifetime.
I'm trying to choose the growth, even when a situation rears up and smacks me in the face. My cheek is stinging, and everything inside me rebels at the sheer injustice of it. I long to strike back, but I can just glimpse the light at the end of this tunnel if I will intentionally change my side of the interaction.
If I want peace, I have to live it right now, when it's excruciatingly hard. What doesn't cost us anything doesn't get us anywhere, but when the stakes are high, we have the chance to live on that razor-sharp edge of change, even if the cut draws a lot of blood.