More Than Words
Photo courtesy of Wix Just three months in and this year has already been jarring — the chaos of COVID, the storming of the Capitol, and continued violence against minority groups (particularly Asian-Americans). Yet, the last couple of months (since the Inauguration) have been hushed. Sure, we are still slogging through a pandemic, but things are a lot quieter. We have whiplashed from anger, hatred, and powerlessness to a clarion call for hope and unity with a touch of light at the end of the tunnel. But can anything or anyone experience metanoia so swiftly? Where will all the anger and fear go? I have spent the past four years with the anger fueling a lot of my actions — self-righteous indignation that “I am right.” or “My people are the just ones.” And now, in less than eight weeks, we lose the exhausting energy of a failed autocrat and are being asked to find hope and start anew…unified. There is no way this can happen immediately. We’ve had a steady diet of bile and the trauma we have all experienced won’t go away because some inspiring words have been spoken. Healing not only takes time, but the sickness needs to be removed at the root. The kind words can be a balm but actual health will come in fits and probably be painful, at times. Outside of our collective pain, I am learning this in my own healing. Part of continuing with The Unglossed as Living Unglossed is that I am not finished. The pain that is part of my life — the anxiety, panic, self-imposed loneliness, and my judgmental nature — might be less palpable in my daily existence. I might sometimes have a better handle on how to manage the impulses but there is still so much work to do. There is compassion to grow for myself and others. If I am honest, part of me has enjoyed being the judge and jury against what I deem to be hateful or ignorant or just plain wrong. I want to believe I am right because then I can say that I am good and that I am okay. But this self-consciousness never convinces anyone, and it splits me, and the anger and division win (to keep out others and self-flagellate myself). There is no compassion for the complexity of our humanness-the thoughts, feelings, experiences of a person shaped by their own pains and sorrows. There is a difference between standing for truth and crowning one’s self as the only omnipotent and self-righteous being devoid of any compassion and sowing more discord. None of us has a corner on what is best and good. It might sound trite but most of us, though incredibly flawed, just want to feel safe and secure in ourselves and with the people and things that we cherish. And, I understand that this sentiment is of no comfort when we, personally or societally, experience a painful violation of our right to just be-to safely live our daily lives. The injustices and sorrows that we have faced or watched our fellow humans experience in the name of hate and greed can cause such pain that the only solution can seem to be to lash out with fiery anger and meet out justice on our own. But then we become no better than the perpetrators and the entire cycle continues-an eye for an eye. But, as Trappist monk Thomas Merton writes, “We never see the one truth that would help us begin to solve our ethical and political problems: that we are all more or less wrong, that we are all at fault, all limited and obstructed by our mixed motives, our self-deception, our greed, our self-righteousness and our tendency to aggression and hypocrisy.” None of this has a simple formula or answer (how I wished it did). This isn’t to say that we allow ourselves to be used and abused. Having compassion in our lives flows into working toward righting the injustices. With compassion, we get curious about the hows and whys of the situation, while we stand for what’s right and still hold hard lines when things are harmful and immoral. We can and should champion our boundaries of honesty, equity, and justice but these must be born out of and delivered with compassion for the other-who has their own story of losses and hopes- and for ourselves-who do not own rightness and need some understanding, too. And, we learn to be with the discomfort of the messiness and incompleteness of being human-together.