As a society, we tout peace and unity, yet many of our actions speak otherwise. Instead of focusing on our similarities and the positive qualities that connect us all, we tend to emphasize our differences and flaws. But what is it that stops us from recognizing our commonalities and working together towards a more harmonious world? The answer lies within the human ego and its involvement in divisiveness.
Let’s explore how our ego's desire for self-importance and our lack of self-awareness (which connect us to our true self) leads to separation among us as individuals and communities, and the crucial internal work we must engage in to become the peace we so desperately crave.
Understanding the Ego:
Our ego (mind) is the mechanism that enables us to form our individual self-identity and helps us to make sense of the world through our five senses. However, its abilities are also its demise.
Our ego, left to its own devices, causes us to be blinded by self-importance, making us believe that our interpretation of reality and strongly held beliefs are the only acceptable ones.
This self-centered attitude inevitably leads to conflicts with others and to the elevating of our differences over what we share. Our focus shifts to what separates us rather than what brings us together because it has been primed to operate from a scarcity mindset, making most everything a competition where it perceives the outcome as having a clear winner and loser or heroes and villains.
Our ego doesn’t like to acknowledge our shortcomings, yet at a subconscious level, it is very aware of what they are. As a result, we tend to unknowingly project our faults onto others, holding them responsible for the mistakes and flaws we refuse to acknowledge within ourselves. This projection results in blaming that can lead to resentment and further distancing ourselves from our fellow beings.
We tend to overlook the things we have in common, such as our fears, joys, and basic needs, and instead find fault in others, perpetuating the cycle of divisiveness by stripping away the humanity of those we feel are undeserving of being treated with fairness. But again, this is the ego attempting to remain relevant and supreme so as not to be rejected by society—a false narrative that it has told itself. This is why working on ourselves first is critical (AKA becoming aware and in control of our ego, and reconnecting to our true self, which is content, understanding, and loving).
Without self-awareness, we identify as our ego, which makes it near impossible to be a catalyst for peace and positive change, because we see everyone and everything outside of us as the problem or solution instead of seeing that both reside within ourselves. As long as we refuse to acknowledge our own faults, prejudices, and biases, we will continue to believe that we are always right and just and others are “bad,” wrong, and out to make our lives a living hell. This ignorance causes us to make unfair assessments of others, seeing only their flaws and imperfections.
All these egoic traits provoke divisiveness as we become more focused on our differences than our similarities. Our ego causes us to separate ourselves from others, establishing boundaries and divisions that inhibit us from experiencing true peace and harmony.
It is our job to focus on finding a balance between our individuality and recognizing the similarities between us all. When we remain trapped in our ego, we only contribute to the problem of divisiveness. By engaging in self-reflection, we can become self-aware and recognize our shortcomings, overcome our prejudices, and extend empathy and compassion to others.
Peace and unity can only be achieved by recognizing each other's shared humanity, listening with an open mind and heart, and working together toward a world where everyone is seen, heard, and valued.