When you have the power, or are on top, or when everything is going your way, it’s only natural to want to strut. You don’t want to think about a time when you might be powerless, on the bottom, or have the world against you.
That’s a downer, isn’t it?
But that’s exactly where religion urges us to go, to think about the world from other perspectives, to consider what life is like for people without your privilege, to have empathy with the unfortunate. Because, after all, if you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you hope they would look out for you?
There is an elephant in the room. We don’t talk about it, we try not to think about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist. That elephant is the fact that we are all on a one way journey through this life. Our time is limited. None of us knows in advance when our end of the journey will come, but that end will come.
When we pull ourselves out of denial and gaze directly at this elephant, we can realize something important: our opportunities should be seized now. That good we can do? Don’t put it off. That kind word? Say it. That gift or remembrance? Give it now.
We will not have this place and time and opportunity to make a difference again.
We cannot fix our pasts. That’s a hard truth to accept, so we spend a lot of time railing against what happened, wishing it had been different, ruminating over the details. But the past cannot be cured– We made that mistake, we had those parents, we encountered that trial, we suffered that loss. Whatever it is. It happened. It’s true. And now it’s part of our past, a part of us.
We cannot make changes to the past. Pretending it never happened may only serve to bury the hurt just to have it pop up unexpectedly later when something triggers a memory. Glossing it over or telling ourselves we’re fine, may cause wounds to fester.
There are many things, though, that we can do with our unpleasant past that can help. We can grieve the relationships we wish had been better. We can offer ourselves the nurturing we may have craved. We can learn from the mistakes we made. We can look for ways to reach out to and support others going through similar hardships. We can look for the positives that came from the bad situation. We can give ourselves permission to heal. We can forgive.
And we can focus on the present, where we have the ability to act.
How will we use our words?
William Zinsser notes:
“Writers can write to affirm and to celebrate, or they can write to debunk and to destroy; the choice is ours.”
But we all have that choice, don’t we? Not just the artists and writers. We all are choosing what we say, how we respond, where we focus our emphasis. We each can choose to lift others up by focusing on the positive.
Mistakes are inevitable. As you practice a piano piece, you’ll hit some clunkers. Go on. As you learn to walk, you’ll stumble. Keep walking. As you reach out in kindness, you may be rebuffed. Keep being kind.
Consider this fascinating account of some of Thomas Edison’s unknown mistakes:
“One of the things that makes Edison stand out as an innovator was he was very good at reducing the risk of innovation—he’s not an inventor that depends on just one thing,” DeGraaf says. “He knows that if one idea or one product doesn’t do well he has others…that can make up for it.”
Chances are you haven’t heard of Edison’s botched ideas, several of which are highlighted here, because the Ohio native refused to dwell on them. DeGraaf says, “Edison’s not a guy that looks back. Even for his biggest failures he didn’t spend a lot of time wringing his hands and saying ‘Oh my God, we spent a fortune on that.’ He said, ‘we had fun spending it.’”
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/7-epic-fails-brought-to-you-by-the-genius-mind-of-thomas-edison-180947786/#I8co0DAKgoFZTybb.99
Keep stretching. Keep innovating. Keep reaching out. One attempt may not work, but you have thousands, maybe millions, in you.
In all the din, what is one voice more? Why bother speaking up? No one seems to listen to each other anymore anyway.
But inside you is a well spring, and you’re fueled by truth and an honest desire to help others. Your opinion matters.
Consider these words from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Who are you to speak up?
You are a child of God. Let God’s light shine on a dark world through your words.
On days that seem dark and heavy, mired with concerns about the future, it is nice to remember that babies are being born, people are proposing, family members are coming home, and we are all here today.
Today, where we still have power to work toward better tomorrows.
It feels like we have fought this battle before. Why won’t it go away? Why are we here again?
Perhaps it is as simple and complex as that there are epic forces of good and evil alive in the world. Evil, whether in the form or racism, misogyny, selfishness, and so on, keeps coming back, even when we think progress has been made. That is the nature of the world we live in.
The answer: to keep flooding the world with good, keep fighting the good fight.
Do not lose hope.
Crocodile tears. Derived from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles shed tears for the creature they are eating; the phrase has come to refer to a hypocritical display of false emotion. Insincerity. Sometimes worse– a show of emotion to lull someone in to sharing their story or revealing their vulnerabilities only to use that information against them. Dante reserved his 8th circle of Hell (out of 9, with 9 being worst) for the fraudulent–the hucksters, the corrupt politicians, the panderers and seducers, the false teachers, the perjurers and liars.
Why are they so bad? Perhaps it is because trust is so sacred, a bridge to community, a link between people that keeps us all from chucking it and living like recluses behind a bush. But also, perhaps it is because we do not come with built in BS meters. We are born trusting; we have to learn cynicism. And the way we learn that is to be let down, over and over, by the insincere. And when that harm makes us close off and guard, we become less than what we really are.
So the solution, it seems, is to fight back, not with insincerity of our own, but with authenticity and vulnerability come what may, to keep putting it out there every day, in every circumstance with truth and love and a whole heart. To be sincere. Authenticity and sincerity will help heal those damaged by crocodile tears, and they definitely won’t land us in one of Dante’s circles.
In a world where you can feel small and anonymous, never forget that you can make a difference. The little kindnesses you put out in the world inspire other such acts and so on and so on, rippling ever outward. Those ripples together make for a kinder gentler world.
In the video below, watch how the kindness ripples through a community and consider how you might add your own kindness ripples into your day.