Having just experienced the most divisive U.S. election in recorded memory, it seems a good idea to look at how best to proceed now that the new president has been declared. While joy and celebration was the aftermath of the election for Mr. Trump and his followers, on the Clinton side there is shock, grief, and anger.
How, indeed, to proceed? Let’s start with the virtue of mercy.
In his excellent book, “Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve,” author Lewis Smedes suggests that we forgive in four stages. While he is directing his insights to interpersonal relationships, I would like to expand this to the country and to all members of the electorate.
The first stage is: HURT – when someone causes you pain so deep and so unfair that you cannot forget it. This can be verbal as well as in deed.
The second stage is HATE – you cannot shake the memory of how much you hurt and you cannot wish your “enemy” well, you may even hope he or she is suffering as much as you.
The third stage is HEALING – you are given the insight to see the person who hurt you in a new light. You are healed, emotionally and spiritually.
The fourth stage is the COMING TOGETHER – you invite the person back into your life. However, this stage and the one before it cannot be rushed. You have to go through whatever emotions you have: anger, resentment, even hate and this may take time. For the other to expect a faster reconciliation is unrealistic.
Secondly, both parties have to practice “Embrace” and “Reject”
Embrace love, Reject hate
Embrace kindness, Reject rudeness
Embrace listening to the other, Reject being tone-deaf to the other
Embrace a desire to understand the other’s point of view, Reject closed-mindedness
Embrace mutual respect, Reject mutual disdain
Embrace unity, Reject divisiveness.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says to some of his detractors: “If a kingdom is torn by civil strife, that kingdom cannot last” (3:24).
Christians believe that there are strong forces for evil and for good in the world. The evil one sows discord that includes: hatred, mistrust, prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia, and disunity. The force for good, called the Holy Spirit, is greater than evil and promotes the common good of society through charity, kindness, patience, tolerance, peace, and justice. I pray that all of us learn to work together for the common good of our country and each other. One way to accomplish this is to be aware of “signs of hope” in our political discourse.
The following, “Prayer for the World,” was written by Rabbi Harold Kushner.
(very appropriate to our present day, post the election)
“Let the rain come down and wash away the ancient grudges,
The bitter hatreds held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory of the hurt, the neglect.
Then, let the sun come out and fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels, beyond accents, gender, or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun be so strong that we will see all people
as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain, bring forth flowers to surround us
And let the mountains teach our hearts to reach upward to heaven.
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.