Without question, the political landscape and election season within the United States have given rise to the shadow side of human nature, regardless of whether you paint yourself red, blue, or some variant shade of purple. Fear and hate have erupted across our country, threatening to drown out what lightness remains, as people and communities have become more divided than ever, determined to defend their rightness of being, regardless of cost.
The trouble is, however justified the fear; however painful the injustices (whether real, perceived, or projected), giving into and giving rise to anger and hate only guarantees more of the same. Importantly, it robs each of us of the ability to be fully engaged in the present of our lives, and it is in that place of presence where we have the best opportunity to make a difference, positively impact others, and effect change by the values we choose to live out in our everyday lives.
This post is not a commentary on our current politics, but rather, our collective psyche, and the high price of fear.
Recently, I was sharing a painful story from my past with a close group of friends, affectionately referred to as my gal pals. In the wake of my own recounting, one friend asked me how I was able to find forgiveness and ultimately forge a close and loving relationship with someone who had once caused me pain. In recent months, other people have asked me how I’ve been able to move forward in the wake of other struggles and setbacks, too, finding success on my own terms and ultimately reuniting with peace and joy along my own twisty journey.
The truth is that it took a long time and has been an imperfect journey at best.
It took digging deep and getting honest enough to realize that carrying around pain, fear, anger, and resentment did nothing to move me forward in my own life and all but guaranteed I would stay stuck while alienating others in the process. It took recognizing that there were gifts to be found in my struggles if I was willing to open myself to the lessons at hand. It took acknowledging that other peoples’ behaviors, however egregious, is often a projection of their own pain, too. It’s not a reason to condone their actions, but the responsibility of how we choose to respond is entirely our own.
And here’s the rub. When we are stuck in reaction, we cannot thoughtfully act. When we are stuck in fear, we cannot love. When we are stuck in pain, we cannot forgive. When we are stuck in a mindset of righteous indignation, we can neither act with kindness nor compassion.
And that hurts all of us.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I am choosing to take the time to reflect on my own choices — of thought, word, and action. To take responsibility for the energy I choose to put out into the world, recognizing that none of us are islands unto ourselves. I encourage you to do the same, considering what it might mean to replace fear with fierce love, too. Not the namby-pamby kind of sentimentality we tend to think of when we hear that word, but the kind that is anchored by courage, strength, and deep faith in the unseen and larger hand that is at play in our lives.
Happy Thanksgiving to each and all of you!
Postscript: Sometimes the anger that rises within us can give us the courage to boldly act and take risks we might otherwise never dare. When harnessed constructively, we can leverage our feelings to effect thoughtful, positive change. That is a good thing. The challenge is when fear gives way to destructive and thoughtless reaction that only serves to perpetuate more of the same.