I wish that we could do good on the scale that we can do harm.
Whether it’s a rude gesture, an unkind word, a horrifically evil act – you can cause a lot of hurt at once. Can you imagine if we could rain down healing, reconciliation and friendship on people the way we can rain down gun fire?
But, even when you know that healing, reconciliation and friendship are available to you for free at any time – it’s still a process. It’s still a journey. And it’s easy to get off track.
We have to decide to act kindly, to act in a spirit of love, to offer grace and forgiveness over an over again. Acts of love and kindness are like seeds: you have to water them, tend them, fertilize them – it’s a lot of work and most of us aren’t very good at gardening.
We don’t have to pretend that something good can come from an unspeakable tragedy, give meaning to the meaningless, or say “this happened for a reason.”
Hundreds of people are waking up today to find out that they lost a family member or friend last night in an act of meaningless evil. We can honor their pain, their lives and their loss today by trying to find understanding, trying to be kind rather than hateful, digging deep to see other people’s perspective before we act out of anger, fear or defensiveness.
Kindness, love, self-control, forgiveness – and even happiness – all take more work than cynicism, snark and blame. It’s easier and more satisfying to throw fuel onto the fire and watch it burn.
Our world is full of problems without easy solutions. And it’s easier to insist that they’re someone else’s problem and not ours. It’s easier to insist that it’s someone else’s responsibility to fix it. But the more we insist that the right politician can solve our problems, the more we share memes as a substitute for conversation, the more we repeat ourselves without acknowledging the ‘other’ point of view, the more we say we’re “thinking and praying” without actually thinking and praying – the bigger the mess we’ll have to clean up when we realize we can’t fix anything until we work together.
We can’t fix anything until we accept an imperfect solution that’s going to take time. We can’t fix our common problems until we accept that it’s going to require that we all give up something that’s important to us. And we can’t fix anything until we all acknowledge that we’re all responsible for our part of the problem. We’re all doing something that makes it worse (see how I’m sharing a blog post instead of donating blood or money right now?).
We can give our friends and neighbors (and for that matter, our enemies and strangers) the benefit of the doubt. We can think before we comment. We can read before we share. We can keep temper our cynicism and blame with grace and empathy.
If someone seems to be struggling, suffering or in pain, we can offer to help them before we judge them.
We are not powerless against the tide of awfulness in the world. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on each other.
Yes, doing good takes more work. But, at least it’s work worth doing.