Don’t become the chaos that is around you. Don’t be seduced into participating in the negative thinking that surrounds you. Don’t become what you are fighting against. Hold onto your peace. Hold tight to your integrity. Hold firm to your moral power and agency.
In the United States, this can be particularly difficult to do an election year when there is much negativity, divisiveness, judgment, deception, and hate. It’s easy to scroll down your Facebook feed these days, turn on the television, open the newspaper and just get caught up in the chaos that is being created to make a profit off of your fears. It can be difficult to hold onto your integrity and moral power when you are living in the clutches of oppressive systems and ways of thinking that have the sole intention to dehumanize you, to reduce your worth to your labor or spending power. It can be challenging to hold onto your integrity and moral power when you have people or situations in your personal life that are negative and have a disregard for your highest good.
All of these things can be an assault on your outer life, but it doesn’t have to be an assault on your inner life.
In trying times, it is even more important to cultivate the stillness, the peace, and the quiet within you in order to keep your integrity in tact. Mahatma Gandhi says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is easy to embody in times of peace, but can be challenging to do in times of chaos or tension. The world needs you to hold firm to your vision for peace, justice, and equity. The world needs you to model it, to embody it. Cultivating peace and justice within you is also part of peacemaking and justice-making work. In fact, it is the most important because the transformation needed for our world, our communities, and our families is deep within you. Practice mindfulness, breathe, connect with nature, cook a meal, pray, do whatever it is you need to do to expand a sense of stillness and peace within yourself because transformation and change is now…. it’s in every moment and we need you.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation with violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the roots of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
- Thomas Merton from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander