Put Out the Fire or Fan the Flames?

What you do when the world around you seems to be burning down matters, and not just for you.

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Photo by Jay Heike on Unsplash

When you are absolutely overwhelmed by bad news on many different levels, from the impersonal of the world scene to the personal involving death, illness, and pain, it’s difficult not to see the world as being on fire.

What do you do when the world appears to be on fire?

It is all too easy to let anger, hurt, pain, dismay, distress, and other negative emotions control you. I am not saying that you shouldn’t FEEL these emotions — you need to, it’s a part of human nature. But you have a choice about if they control you or not.

In the age of outrage culture and the immediacy of social media, it’s too easy to be shown things that will send you on a downward spiral. All you have to do is read headlines and it sure as hell looks like the world is on fire (in some instances quite literally.) As such, it’s really easy to feel sad, disenchanted, and outright hopeless.

When you start to feel that way you still get to choose if you will lash out and fan the flames…or seek a means to help extinguish the fire. You ALWAYS have this choice, even though it may not always appear to be so.

Flamethrower, stand aside and let it burn, or apply the garden hose?

All of these tools are available to you. But the choice about which you will use is entirely up to you.

When there is a situation going on, if you add your comments to it and stir the pot, you are applying the flamethrower.

When there is a situation going on, if you add your comments to it to try and settle it down, you are applying the garden hose.

When there is a situation going on, if you read about it and add nothing to it, you are standing aside.

There is a time and a place for each of these options. When something is going on and nobody is willing to speak up or acknowledge it, and it matters, reach for the flamethrower. Sometimes you really do need to kill it with fire and start fresh from the scorched ground.

Of course, this is not generally literal. For example, when the colonists took on the British Empire and started the Revolutionary War, the flamethrower needed to be applied to get that fire started. Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat was the metaphoric application of the flamethrower, too.

When you are faced with the fire already burning, it’s important to ask of yourself if you should fan the flames, let it burn, or apply the garden hose to try to put it out. Every situation you encounter is going to be different, so the answer will always be different.

When do you let it burn?

If there is nothing you can contribute to advance a change, and it makes no sense to douse the fire, that’s when you stand aside and let it burn. It may not be easy to recognize when this point hits, but you can usually tell by how it makes you feel.

For example, someone was wrong on the internet! The comment thread has taken an ugly turn, and a lot of name-calling and outrage are burning away. You agree that this fire should have been started, and you think the burn needs to continue. Dousing the flames, thus, would feel wrong. But will fanning the flames make you feel better and/or advance the fire along?

Like in the movies, if the flame is working its way from its point of origin to a bunch of barrels of oil, and you agree those barrels should be blown-up, you want to help the flame along. The trouble is, fanning the flame often makes it larger but does not advance it.

This, in turn, might prolong the issue in question. If you feel like applying a flamethrower to the situation will simply increase the heat and actually prolong the time it takes for the fire to move, then standing aside is in your best interest.

Do nothing, let it burn.

When do you apply the garden hose?

As in the above metaphor, the flame is moving towards those barrels of oil. But that explosion is NOT going to be good for ANYONE. Get out the garden hose and start spraying it down.

Keep in mind, this is largely applicable to personal matters. Unfortunately, you and I do not have the power to directly spray down the fires President Trump keeps starting around the world. When the elections come…well, frankly, one person’s garden hose is another’s flamethrower. But that’s another topic.

When the person who was wrong on the internet is being burned, and they really don’t deserve that just because they were a dumbass, you can see that it’s time to put out those flames. You will know by how the situation is making you feel how you may desire to interact with it.

Start spraying the water.

Choices must be made

Sometimes it would be great to have a combination flame thrower/water hose. You could switch back and forth at will, knowing when to burn and when to douse the situation — or stand at the ready to do either.

All metaphors aside, please take this into consideration. You only can control your own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Thus most, if any, impact that you can have on the world is super-localized. As such, when you encounter a more personal situation where the world is on fire it’s important that you be mindful of your choices, and the impact they can have.

If adding your ire to a situation is going to make it worse or just pile on more negativity, perhaps you should stand aside. If you see an opportunity to be a voice of calm and reason, by all means, put that out there.

Do not disregard anger and negative feelings. They are totally necessary to precipitate change. Further, when bad things happen on any level, it’s a part of human nature to react. Some situations are going to only be open to reacting with negative feelings.

However, you do have control over whether you will let negativity dominate your thoughts, feelings, and actions…or if you can release it and find positives to create the change.

Action versus reaction

Sometimes you may fail to recognize if the flamethrower or garden hose is being used as an action or part of a reaction.

Too many things in the world today get built on reactions. Rather than focusing on positive, useful actions at the start people react. This tends to be, at least initially, negative, and they end up struggling as such.

Burning down the building to get it out of your way in anger will get it out of your way. But without a plan to remove the charred and demolished building before you, now you have to contend with the rubble. That could be worse. This is an example of why it’s better to focus on action rather than reaction.

It is for this reason that it’s important to recognize if what you are doing, whether standing aside to let it burn, applying the garden hose, or fanning the flames, is an action or a reaction. The former can build better things…the latter just helps keep burning them down.

What you do when the world around you seems to be burning down matters, and not just for you. But you can choose for yourself what to do in the event of such an emergency.

You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter, as does whether you use a hose or a flamethrower when the world appears to be on fire.

Here are my Five Easy Steps to Change the World for the Better

Written by

I am a practitioner of mindfulness, positivity, philosophy, & conscious reality creation. I love to inspire, open minds, & entertain. http://www.mjblehart.com

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