Just when you thought this election couldn’t get any more crazy, right? Hot mics, leaked emails, third (and fourth, and fifth) party candidates, and one more presidential debate!
Heaven help us all.
As I said to my husband the other day, America is having a come-to-Jesus moment. The events of this election are holding up a mirror to what we say we believe, and our reflection tells us that our actions don’t square up to all the hype. Ouch.
The Price We Pay
In the fifth chapter of Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker J. Palmer encourages us to engage with people who different from us—people who hold opinions that don’t match our own. Anyone who knows me knows this is a foundational value that I hold at the very core of who I am. I agree with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who said, “we are enlarged by the people who are different from us.” I quoted Rabbi Sacks in my book about achieving oneness and unity in our divided world. Those who are engaged in the work of reconciliation, unity, and healing have come to understand the value of those who hold different opinions and viewpoints, and those whose history, culture, and belief systems are different from our own. We also know the energy it takes to remain engaged in these kinds of exchanges and conversations.
In the wake of the hot mic revelation, I’ve been engaged in conversations with a few people who reached out to ask my opinion and to help them determine how to respond. In various conversations—on voxer, in Facebook groups and private messages, and on the telephone—I’ve had to parse my thoughts in order to gently articulate my perspective in a way that, hopefully, helped to move the conversation forward. After hours and hours of conversation over the course of a couple of days, by body rebelled by felling me with one of the very worst migraine headaches I’ve experienced in a very long time.
The Sacrament of Stepping Away
Dr. Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan is a dear friend and mentor to me. As an expert in intercultural development and cultural competency, she has taught me the importance of stepping away from the work of reconciliation, unity, and healing from time to time. Without returning to places of comfort in our lives, our growth as culturally competent individuals becomes stunted. We cannot reach our full potential as culturally competent individuals, without stepping away from the work from time to time. When we return to places of comfort—away from those who see the world differently, or who want to persuade us to see things their way, or who simply live their lives differently from us—our body, mind, and soul have the opportunity to process and synthesize what we’ve learned when engaging those who are different. Contrary to what may seem logical, critical growth actually happens when we take a break from the stressful work of expanding our cultural competency. When we don’t take time to intentionally step away so that our body, mind, and soul can do the work it needs to stay whole, our body may force us to take that break.
If you hear nothing else from me today, hear me telling you to take good care of yourself. No matter how you slice it, the work of reconciliation, unity, and healing has a cost for each of us. We can minimize the negative impacts to our body, mind, and soul by intentionally stepping away from the work from time to time. You may need to close your laptop, turn off your phone, step away from the news media, and forego the next debate. Doing so is not a sign of weakness. Stepping away might just be the most critical work you do to help bring reconciliation, unity, and healing to your sphere of influence, and to your own soul.
Some questions for you: How are you doing? Are you taking care of yourself?