I don’t enjoy conflict, even when it’s necessary, healthy or unavoidable. This might explain why I confront most political activity with low grade anxiety/depression. When I try to figure out if it’s anxiety or depression, I just end up feeling more depressed…or is it more anxious. Regardless, I don’t enjoy feeling conflicted when confronting conflict.
In light of my aversion to conflict, I usually anticipate election outcomes with a joyless resolve. No matter who wins, there is going to be a fair amount of anger, sadness, and mourning in the land. Sure, there will be joy for some or even many, but the joy will contrast the sadness. The heights of the rejoicing will highlight the depths of the mourning.
On the eve of this election, our nation was united by possibility. Although we desired different outcomes and answers, we shared the common purpose of trying to change the course of our existence. Certainly there were some who chose to watch from the bleachers, but many of us decided to get out on the field and influence the outcome. Millions moved from spectator to participant, cynic to idealist, individual to citizen by the casting of a ballot. In the casting of ballots, we once again fleshed out our constitutional framework and embodied our democratic ideals. For a brief moment, millions united in in the pursuit “to form a more perfect Union.”
It is not a question of whether we are a Republic or a Democracy; the reality is we are people who have united in our commitment to protect and strengthen our nation through the vote of our citizens. Regardless of the imperfections, flaws, and corruptions endemic in our implementation, we are still a nation that desires to be ruled by the people and for the people. The greatest miracle in our desire to self-govern is our commitment to accept the outcome of any election. Whether or not our individual interests are satisfied, we commit to live under the authority of election results. In almost every election in our nation’s history, we have chosen to embrace the ideal of a “United States” above the temptation of succession, anarchy, and permanent division.
Regardless of our overarching ideals and long term behavior, every election brings a fair amount of dissatisfaction and alienation. Consequently, I do not enjoy the days that follow an election. Whether or not my policy or politician triumphed, I take little joy in navigating the waters of an emotionally divided America. I don’t enjoy abiding in any room where half the room is sad, frustrated, and angry while the other half is happy, optimistic, and satisfied. This is the state of post election America; possibly inevitable, but never enjoyable to me.
On this day, I meditate on the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Paul writes, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:9-18).
Today I will pay special notice to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and to “mourn with those who mourn.” In other words, I will take time to genuinely value the heart of every single person. I will try my best to identify with their rejoicing and to understand their mourning. I will do my best to love them in the way I would want to be loved. I will seek peace and harmony with those who contrast my current state of being. I think this will help my conflicted heart and I think it will also help our conflicted nation.