“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s easy to let our righteous anger boil when we read about f*cking idiots in the news.
It’s easy to smugly gloat over Trump supporters, now that the tide seems to be turning.
It’s easy—but it’s toxic.
Toxic to us when we stew in our own fury. Toxic to our precariously divided nation when we rub our perceived superiority in the faces of those with opposing views.
In these unprecedented days of turmoil, strife, and pain, the wisdom of one of our country’s greatest leaders can help guide us back to wholeness. What we need now is light and love, not more darkness and hate.
When we post a Facebook comment deriding someone as stupid for not wearing a mask, is that going to change their mind—change anyone’s mind? When we personally attack someone, it only causes them to dig in deeper in their position.
When we post something like, “If you’re a Trump supporter, then unfriend me now,” we’re only deepening the rift in our already perilously split country.
Sure, it feels good to vent our righteous anger—the same way an abusive parent might feel it’s appropriate to beat their misbehaving child.
The idea of working with the other side might seem impossible after the ridiculous bullsh*t of the last four years, but it’s absolutely necessary. We have to start the healing process now. The climate crisis isn’t going to wait. The sputtering economy isn’t going to wait. Systemic racism and inequality aren’t going to wait. We need to come together now.
About half the country voted for the “other side,” and those people aren’t going anywhere. And they aren’t going to magically change their viewpoints and start agreeing with us. So we have to figure out a way to work together instead of fighting each other at every step.
One thing we can all agree on—regardless of political affiliation, skin color, religion, ethnicity, or age—is that sh*t is messed up right now, and something needs to change.
We just don’t all agree on why it’s messed up or how to fix it, mostly because we’re too wrapped up in screaming at each other about who’s to blame.
The one thing each of us has the power to change is how we react to those who disagree with us.
Instead of knee-jerk reactions, we can attempt to understand others. In the sagely words of Ram Dass:
“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
We are all trying to make the best decisions we can, given the environment we find ourselves in. Democrat or Republican, Christian or Buddhist, Black or white, we’re all doing the best we are capable of, the best we know how.
When we’re tempted to judge others for what we perceive as their ignorant, uneducated views, we can stop and wonder: if we were raised in the same environment, if we learned the same hard life lessons, if we suffered the same traumas as those people on the “other side,” can we be certain we wouldn’t share their views?
And if you’re so f*cking woke that you are absolutely certain you would still develop the “right” views on life, then how about showing some f*cking compassion?
And there I go, letting my righteous anger boil over—that’s how easy it is.
Anger is contagious, like a virus, and we’re deep in an anger pandemic right now. It can feel like indignant fury is the only possible reaction to the insanity of the world. With our hearts pounding and our minds spinning, it can seem impossible to calm down, to restrain from lashing out in great vengeance and furious anger, but we always have a choice in how we react.
When our thoughts are racing out of control with the injustices of the latest headlines, we can stop, close our eyes, take a deep, full breath, and slowly, very slowly, let the exhale out. When we slow our breath, we slow our thoughts. When we consciously lengthen our exhale, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system and trigger the body to relax. Our breath is a built-in hack to help us regulate our out-of-control emotions.
Yes, things need to change, the numerous problems in our country and in the world need to be addressed, and people who broke the law need to be held accountable, but the last four years have shown us the results delivered by constant judging, bickering, and name-calling.
Like Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote reminds us:
We’ve had four years of darkness, four years of hate. To fill the next four years with light and love, it’s up to each of us to be mindful of our reactions to opposing views.