“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls” Matthew 11:29
Our nation’s been whipped into a fervor. If you read the news or flip on a TV, it’s guaranteed that you will see some type of mudslinging, some denigration of others by opposing “sides”. It’s been a sad sight to behold. Over the past few weeks, I let myself get sucked into the thick of it all, and while, on the surface, I felt as if I was able to remain at least somewhat impartial to the whole ordeal, on a subconscious level it affected me deeply. As a people, a society, community, and republic, we’ve drifted away from acceptance. As humans, we want to feel heard. Inherently, we want our feelings to be validated by the people we surround ourselves with. And as time has gone on, more so than before as of late I feel, the circles we surround ourselves with socially have grown smaller. We insulate ourselves in echo chambers of oft repeated talking points and principles that we want to hear. As a result, our compassion for others, our gentleness, and our humility has grown weak. This is affecting us, even if we don’t feel it happening on a tangible level. The culture we find ourselves living in today feels separated. It feels harsh. It feels unwelcoming towards others who may not always fit into the neat little boxes we want them to. It’s truly a sad state of affairs for a country that commissioned Emily Lazarus’ sonnet to be emblazoned on the very symbol it chose to represent its core principle:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Wise words, from a wise woman, in a different time. Still, an enduring beacon of hope for what we could be. While it may not seem like it at times in this current moment, this snapshot of history we find ourselves living in, I firmly believe we have not lost our ability to love. To serve. To welcome others with open arms regardless of personal differences, political affiliation, or the myriad other ways God created us in unique and beautiful forms. I think about these things. I look around me and see the restlessness this whole endeavor has created. I wonder why, with so much pain, loss, and hardship occurring, that we choose to focus and hone in on the things that separate us, that make us different, when in reality, acceptance, humility, and a gentle spirit are the path to peace. To forgiveness. As someone living in recovery, I’ve learned over the years just how indispensable these practices truly are. By mindfully practicing a kindhearted attitude of service, we are enabled through the spirit to grow away from the previous mindset that kept us sick, and into a place of healing. I’ve always believed these practices are universal – what has been the answer for so many addicts over the years holds within it the power to help us all, regardless of circumstance.
We’ve been through a lot this year. We’re living through a pandemic. We’re struggling to find new ways to cope, to live in these trying times. Instead of wrapping another layer of madness into the maelstrom that is 2020 by affiliating ourselves with opposing sides – we’d be better served to let our differences go. We’d be better served to look for the similarities between us. To honestly, truly, take the words of Matthew 11:29 to heart – to enrich our spiritual walk, practice the principles that God has laid out for us in his word, and live for our brothers and sisters. To humble ourselves before Him, before our fellow man, and to be gentle with each other. To ACCEPT each other, regardless of circumstance.
It’s easy to go along with the crowd, to let your voice be swallowed in the mob of righteous indignation. It’s easy to blend in. To remain unseen, comforted by the false security of being just another face whose “on the right side”. What’s truly a challenge is to stand out. To be an individual who stands up to hateful speech and attitudes by kneeling down. By practicing love and humility in the face of anger and rage.
Be gentle to one another. Implement strategies of tolerance and understanding in your interactions with others. Resign yourself to accepting people for who they are, where they are in their lives at any given moment, and to understanding that there’s probably an underlying reason behind their intolerance for you, or your view of the world. People can change. They change every single day, all around you. And if enough of us can take the time and space to hear them, without judgement, without violent retaliation, a movement of acceptance – one that is embedded in the fabric of our nation no less – will once again take hold.
Find some rest in your soul today. Look to Him.
I know we need it.
Sean – In Recovery
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org