This post reflects on the negative feelings many have about the 2016 election, my birthday, and the best ways to live with compassion and empathy (including using the present to our benefit).
Today is my birthday.
On the day of the election results, I turn 34. I’ve lived longer than Jesus (these are the things you think when you grow up with two ordained ministers as parents).
And what have I seen? What do I feel?
I watched Dr. Strange on Monday, relishing spiritual principles on the screen, even if they were augmented by Marvel.
I watched the Cubs win game seven of the World Series, coming back from the brink of loss.
These are the things running in the back of my mind as I attempt to unpack my thoughts and feelings around the election results.
A not so silent minority…
In my memoir I talk at length about who I am and the real experiences that shaped me, and for the purposes of this blog and my work, I rarely discuss them.
I am a Baptist, but I use meditation principles from a variety of traditions.
I’m an intuitive, but I go to church every Sunday.
I married a white man, but I dated any number of ethnicities, genders, and orientations.
I have a deep sense of worthiness and compassion, after years of negotiating the violence that was done to me.
I am not a warrior. I have never been a fighter. It is not my way. I am a peacemaker. I transform difficult moments into positive solutions. I transmute difficult experiences into opportunities.
When I read about people talking of battles and fighting, I shake my head. When I read the laments of people who feel the system has failed them, I sigh.
To fight another is to fight oneself.
To lash out at another is to lash out at oneself.
The Western world is addicted to conflict. It doesn’t understand that conflict is not inherently good. It can sometimes lead to positive results, but it can also lead to negative ones.
Imagine your family has decided to invite a friend to the house. You have to pick one friend. Half the family picks one, the other half picks another. A coin is flipped and one is selected. Does half the family stop talking to the other? Do they scream and throw tantrums? Do they threaten to secede from the house, drawing a line down the center of the building?
The family continues to live as a family. The family invites the person to the home, and no matter how badly that person behaves, the family works through it. The family continues to live.
I know many reading this will wonder how I can say such things. How can I say this when the person elected is a person who would commit violence against me for being me?
This is the other cheek.
Today I turn 34. I’ve lived longer than Jesus, and over that 34 years I was raised on the Gospel.
I was raised to understand the nature of “turn the other cheek.” It isn’t what most people think. Most people think it means to be forgiving, but the scholar Walter Wink suggested something different.
Depending on how you hit someone showed your status during ancient times. First, you would never hit someone with your left hand because you use that to wipe yourself.
You would always slap someone with your right hand.
If you hit someone with the palm of your hand, that showed your superiority. If that person turned their cheek, they were challenging you. You would be forced to backhand them. If you did backhand them, you would be acknowledging they were your equal and changing the dynamic of the interaction. If you didn’t backhand them, you would have been publicly shamed by this person.
To turn the other cheek was the ultimate challenge of power – the ultimate act of civil disobedience.
So today I’m thinking about this. I’m thinking about all my training in peace and conflict – in peaceful social change. I’m thinking about spreading love. I’m thinking about how we can turn the other cheek.
To start, consider these things:
Do not unfriend anyone. Do not ask to be unfriended. Whoever you do not agree with, instead, ask to get a coffee or tea with them. Commit to listening and ask for the same in return.
Acknowledge your feelings. Accept them. Then let them go.
Gift a copy of my interfaith devotional to your friends and family – especially those with differing viewpoints. This is a way to help build understanding and love. Get a copy here.
Take a friend, neighbor, or family member to an event, movie, or club that will expose them to different viewpoints.
Donate funds to or volunteer with educational programs that expose children and adults to different perspectives.
Donate funds to or volunteer with educational programs that facilitate critical and analytical thought.
Only share or spread news outlets that use facts and figures behind their stories.
Express gratitude for the things that are good in the world – because there are many.
I love you, and show my love through my work. Spread it around – especially my free challenge here. It helps make the world brighter.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
This will help my birthday be happy.
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