Sadly, our world is undergoing prolonged transformational stress. At no point in recorded history has greater social conflict been communicated between the advocates of a more equitable society opposing those fearful of reforming the status quo.

The “haves” and the “have nots” still clash over policies; however, we now have social improvement advocates describing backward trends as citizens’ well-being becomes more vulnerable to the policies of an entrenched power elite.

Personally, I perceive potential for change in everything; I reject the dualistic belief that the “evils” of greed, corruption, intolerance, bias and discrimination must be conquered with social action. Instead, I believe we outgrow or transcend our own human imperfections by acts of kindness, eventually inspiring other people to tackle their own “demons” or encumbrances. We change ourselves to change the world around us.

Take the mass shootings sadly becoming almost monthly occurrences. How do we tackle the violence that erupts from social outcasts’ self-perceptions of alienation, ostracization, confusion, misunderstanding, bias and cultural/racial/sexual/gender differences? I know many people care about social injustice, so how do we transform self-perceived feelings of oppression that, although real, incorrectly reinforce separateness?

Emotions are complex and eternally rooted experiences that require self-love to heal. Having previously taken psychiatric medications for 16 years, I understand alienation, depression, hopelessness, fear and self-loathing better than many Americans, although not all. There are people who experience greater psychological burden than I did in the past, and I applaud their tenacity, courage, faith, endurance and persistence. The refusal to allow hatred to control our minds and hearts is the greatest miracle of evolved living.

But if we want to transform our society, we should not attack oppression; we must heal ourselves by helping others. I have read many times that mass shootings are a mental health issue. What I have read on too few occasions is how kindness directed toward the mentally ill, homeless and “unclean” of our society changed lives. We need messages of partnership that inspire and transform our communities.

If we want to alleviate the societal stressors that plague substance abusers, the mentally ill and the homeless, we should replace our judgmental preconceptions with humble donations of our time, treasure and talent to people who can do nothing to improve our socioeconomic advancement. The conscious attitude of “By the grace of God, not I” improves everyone involved.

If we sympathize with abused animals, sick, abused or orphaned children, and rape victims, why do we deny compassion to the homeless, the mentally ill, substance abusers and people with sexual compulsions? Helping them survive and eventually empower/overcome/transform lessens the unreconciled factors that drive self-destructive behavior. That benefits everyone. Punishment defeats. Love and compassion transform.

Ronald Francis David Hunt