"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke
I was listening to Doreen Virtue's Hay House radio programme the other night and she briefly mentioned that feeling drawn into activism for something is a strong indicator of what your life's purpose is.
While I'm all for being passionate and championing a cause, I also believe it must be said that along with any kind of activism must come a strong sense of peace and love. I think that activism on its own is a bit of a dirty word that unfortunately carries with it connotations of hostility and angst. As someone who follows a vegan lifestyle and who is also involved in the spiritual community, I see examples everyday of activism that is carried out more from a sense of fear than of love.
There are various reasons for people to become vegan - caring about animals, the environment, global hunger, and health - and while most vegans are happy to do their bit without pushing it on others, there are some people that use very aggressive methods of activism and verbally attack those who don't follow their beliefs.
If these people simply delivered their message with love, compassion and understanding towards the people they are trying to "convert" then others would be far more receptive to their message. Think about it, how do you normally respond when someone starts attacking you? You don't listen to what they have to say, you feel threatened and defensive.
The problem stems from the delusion of ego, which leads us to believe that we are separate and against each other. When we see people as enemies or adversaries then we are acting out of fear and not love.
What is vital for us to understand is that we are all on our own journey with differing levels of beliefs and understanding. What is right in my opinion can be incredibly wrong in someone else's view - so in a way we are both right. Being compassionate and motivated by love calls on us to acknowledge that someone else's version of what is true is also "reality".
This can understandably be extremely difficult to do when you believe that an action or belief that someone else holds is fundamentally wrong. This is where exercising tolerance on our part and practising the art of allowing can relieve us individually of a lot of unnecessary and self-inflicted suffering.
So then what can be done if you feel that you are called to influence or persuade others to a better way of life? Because as Edmund Burke's quote so rightly says, if good men do nothing then it's a green light for evil to take over the world.
One of my favourite authors, Timber Hawkeye reminds us that you 'can't force a flower to bloom until it is ready' and so it is the same with people too. The easiest and most effective way to get someone else to change their beliefs or behaviour is to set a good example yourself.
This is how I choose to interpret Edmund Burke's quote. Good men do nothing when they don't practice what they preach, when they act out of fear instead of love and when they try to invoke change through force. People don't like just being told what to do; however, when you transform your life people can see the results for themselves and then they want to experience that level of success and happiness as well.
It is right that we should stand up for what we believe in but let's make sure first that those beliefs are based on the common principles of love, peace, hope and compassion. If we were all motivated by these things then there would no longer be a need for activism.