November has arrived. Crisp air, falling leaves, shorter days, and pumpkin pies; a time for appreciation and thanksgiving, reflection on all saints, and remembrance of all souls, including our veterans. With all this going on what seems to be in the forefront, however, is Election day. I don’t know about you, but I find the negative campaigning exhausting, distracting, and depressing. Perhaps I can tie this all in together in some strange, yet helpful twist of ideas.
What I admire most about the saints is their humanity—their “normal-ness.” They were real people, not perfect, evidently flawed. Yet their devotion to others, to giving of themselves for the betterment of society, and to loving God has brought them admiration. Despite weaknesses, problems, doubts, and egos they were able to accomplish great things during their time on earth. How? Simply by treating others with love (which includes respect, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity). My point is that all of us embody both qualities: strength and weakness, acts of kindness and acts of selfishness, times of thoughtfulness and times of insensitivity.
Given the mood and flavor of current events flooding our eyes and ears, I’m focusing this month on some of the less than perfect aspects which I personally find difficult. For example, disappointment. Think about how others might have let you down. It happens to us all; we participate on both ends of such situations so several examples may come to mind. For me, this feeling of disenchantment happens most often when I feel harshly judged or unjustly criticized without opportunity to show my intentions or what makes me, me. Have you ever been judged? Did you feel it was a fair assessment?
Many biblical passages reference criticism of others, while not recognizing our own, often similar, flaws. [Here are a few examples you may wish to explore: Romans 2:1-11, Matthew 7:3-5, James 5:9, Luke 6:37-42, James 4:11-12. These offer gentle reminders to look with understanding and heart. It’s easy to find imperfections in others. These readings recommend we become slow to judge and suggest we discern with compassion.]
Unfortunately, assuming and accusing are popular human traits. If I explore deeper to consider a possible “why” I might conclude that sometimes we wear blinders; perhaps we react from a place of pride. Someone may make assumptions after a quick glance or based upon the word of someone else, without knowing the whole truth. Don’t get me wrong, constructive criticism can lead to growth and self-improvement, yet I shall leave that subject for another newsletter. The bottom line is that we [and they] may judge someone or something with limited information or from a perspective of darkness.
We humans are complex individuals. Often there is not a single right answer. Sometimes there’s more to a circumstance than right vs wrong, good vs bad, democrat vs republican. I know how I feel about this election and what outcome I think will affect our nation in a positive way. Despite the rhetoric, the promising of anything to win, and the casting of blame, I can discern what is presented to me, and attempt react to the facts without bias with an open mind and a hopeful heart.
The key is to be open to a variety of perspectives, to differences in ourselves and others, to appreciate each’s successes, and to understand each’s shortcomings. A desire to do good, to love one another as we love Jesus, and to do to them as we would want done to us… it is that mindset that helps us move closer to God, and toward a stronger society. Honesty, reliability, concern for the people, wisdom, dedication, being genuine… these are ideals I will be hoping for and looking for in our next leader.
Regardless of outcome, I realize the saints used their gifts to help others. I can pray our elected officials will do the same. In the meantime, I can also do my part here and now. I propose that each of us continue to walk tall, hold firm to our core morals, stand up for what we believe in (loyalty, responsibility, devotion, integrity, kindness) and make our own difference. It is often said, the devil does his greatest work when people sit back and do nothing. What if we could be someone that makes a difference too? That’s all the saints did—they affected other’s lives in positive ways.
Despite the constant bombardment of negativism, we can concentrate on making a positive difference by loving those around us. Maybe I won’t look at my coworker’s flaws, or hold my family member’s weakness against them. I might hold the door open for a stranger pushing a stroller, or carry groceries for an elderly person, or rake leaves for a sick neighbor. There’s plenty of good to be done through everyday actions. It’s what made our saints noteworthy and what makes our communities, and country, strong. We can affect through simple deeds, working hard, cherishing loved ones, and helping one another. It starts with tolerance and acceptance. While still being true to ourselves and our values, we can cast off our tendency to judge, accuse, or condemn, and open our hearts. Me, you… we are the key; our basic beliefs matter in all this. Disagreement and debate will arise; conflict will occur. Will we react with respect and move forward or will we undermine those with whom we disagree? When I feel respected and valued for my perspective, instead of convicted as wrong, inferior, or ignorant during a dispute (large or small), the whole experience turns into one of growth instead of one of hurt or upset. I pray for each of us that we may react more often with an open mind, eager to know the whole story, and make wise choices filled with understanding.
When we think of others, let’s remember that along with shortcomings great qualities exist, unique talents, given by God. This is the commonality between the saints, our families, friends, coworkers, and even our candidates. Just like our neighbors, these candidates are human beings. Hopefully their strengths guide them to lead and benefit our country by their participation, in whatever way comes to pass in the next few days, months, and years...
God Bless America
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.