You’ve probably heard the stories in the news: pre-pubescent boys tormenting a grandma on the school bus; children driven to make drastic choices because their school-mates bully them relentlessly; people reacting to the news by threatening the tormentors and bullies.

When I hear stories like this, I often wonder if we are slowly losing our “common sense” gene.

That little gene that tells us, no matter how old we are, that it is not okay to harass, hurt, or torment others. Not because society tells us so, but because there is a part in all of us, deep down, that knows we would hurt BADLY if this were to happen to us so, most likely, it will hurt other humans because they are, well, also human. For some people, that “gene” may be long lost. I pray (for our sake and for the sake of our children’s children) that the rest of us find it, nurture it, and strengthen it.

Committing to a life a constant and never-ending improvement is a very personal choice. Like me, you may have struggled to find balance between using common sense to stand up for something that didn’t seem right and staying away from people or circumstances that may trigger old, negative memories. But as you learn that all of us are connected in some way since we are all connected to our creator, you will find it harder to discriminate or even have repressed thoughts of hatred. You may then become an instrument of peace, helping others understand that bullying and prejudice has no place in the hearts of kind, loving people.

What about those of us who try to be more loving and compassionate but have not been able to manage our own anger and frustration over our crappy upbringing, alcoholic father, extreme poverty, or angry friends? What about all of those young people who have been bullied, who feel lonely and angry, and who have nobody to turn to for advice and comfort? To all of you, remember that it is possible to overcome hardships. If you cannot remember anything else, remember this: Change can and will happen to you, if you so desire.

Change solely depends on you.

You have been slowly changing all along. How else would you explain that your anger, frustration, or sadness have been growing steadily throughout the years? You may have changed into who you are today thanks to the influences around you. And you can change back to the person you are intended to be by picking the right influences this time around.

Now, you can make a serious, long-term commitment to yourself and choose to be nurtured by positive, loving, and encouraging forces that will help you become more balanced. Even if nothing else around you changes, you can make a choice and educate yourself until you grow out of the person that you once were and into the new you.

Nurture the common sense “gene” and let it make you strong. Only then can you rebel against anything that limits you and become a beacon of change for everyone around you.

You can start simply by paying attention to the thoughts that go through your mind at any given point. When you find yourself ready to react to someone or something, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do going to bring me peace and make me a better person?” or, “Is what I’m about to say or do going to bring peace and help others or will it cause anger or pain?” Negative thoughts may be directed at you, and when that happens, you may be surprised how much negative crap goes through your mind, especially when you are full of anger or carelessness. Those thoughts may be inevitable, but how to choose to channel them is purely voluntary.

Rebel against all that negative cruelty by caring. Care about yourself because you deserve it. Care about others because they deserve it as much as you do.

More importantly, remember that the decision to change is yours and only yours. No one can live your life for you, so no one should be making decisions for you either. Once you have made the decision to change for the better and taken the necessary steps to develop and learn a new belief system, you will realize that it will be easier to keep those negative influences away and rebel against anything that is mean and cruel. You’ll be stronger, wiser. You will become an agent of positive, loving, caring energy for yourself and people just like you.

Jovanka Ciares is a former entertainment executive turned holistic health and wellness coach, teaching people how to adopt a healthier, more conscious way of life, primarily through diet, exercise, and personal development. She studied nutrition with bestselling author and Cornell University professor emeritus, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and at the Spencer Institute. Check out Jovanka’s first e-book Cleanse! The 3-Week Ultimate Detox Challenge. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

*Photo by Josh Kenzer.