Skip to main content

How I combat political despair (and other forms of worry)

It is, to say the least, an odd and rancorous election season. (And to think it's only June, with nearly half a year to go until November elections.)

I'm not the only one noticing that there's a palpable sense of worry in the body politic. And given all the turmoil, polarization, and rancor in the political system, it's not surprising that some people are falling into a form of dread, and even despair.

I want to address that sense of political dread. But -- don't worry -- I'm not weighing in politically, here. In fact I want to remind everyone that at The Falls Church Episcopal, when we say "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" there is no asterisk after the "you" -- meaning ALL are welcome there: liberal and conservative, straight and gay, millionaires and homeless, life-long Christians and first-time-visitors-doubting-this-whole-religion-thing, newborn babies and octogenarians, and everyone in between each of those spectrums.

So while I'm not here weighing in on any political stance, I do want to admit that sometimes I get worried about politics. And sometimes I have to remind myself of good antidotes to political and other kinds of worry.

And on the chance that you, too, sometimes slide into political despair (or any kind of worry) -- I want to offer some of those antidotes, for your use.

The first antidote is a line from my mentor from college years, William C. (Bill) Placher. I love this quote so much I've recently made it part of my email signature.

Placher said,

"The way we best show our love to the whole world is to love with a particular passion some little part of it."

The reason I like that quote is it that it's hope-full. A lot of our feelings of despair and worry are based on a sense (valid or not) that "so much is beyond our control"  -- that there's very little we, as one person, can do.

But there's hope in taking action. We counteract discouraging feelings when do something. When we do something. And the best way show our love to the whole world -- the best way to make an impact on the community, the nation, and the world -- is to love with a particular passion some little part of it.

That sentiment is very consistent with another favorite antidote to despair and worry, and that's the line "it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Sure, there's lots of darkness, lots of rancor, lots of polarization. But we can light a candle, and light -- the Light of Christ-like behaviors -- overcomes darkness. Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

The third and final antidote to despair and worry is the line "we are a 65-mile-an-hour people, and often God is a 3-mile-an-hour God." 

That, for me, is a reminder to be both persistent and patient. It brings to mind what The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." That the United States is, on the world stage, still in its adolescence (yet driving a very powerful car). That God ain't finished with any of us yet, and that we all have much to learn -- from the Christian faith, from God, and from one another. Which leads us all the way back to persistence and patience, showing our love to the whole world by loving with a particular passion one little part of it.

And that, we can all do.

I hope this helps.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If there's a will, there's a way.

For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year.
What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…

Fasting from Discouragement, Making Visible the Good

So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.

But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…