it is pretty easy to get caught up in the vitriol spewing from each political party during these back to back weeks of party conventions. We heard how one candidate is a fear monger and the other can’t be trusted. We are told that it is a dark night in America and conversely that America is the greatest country on earth. It is the job of the political conventions to paint their candidate in the light most favorable while casting the opposition candidate as undesirable (to put it politely).
I wonder how often we do the same thing to ourselves. How often do we badmouth ourselves and let those voices in our head tell us that we are a bad parent, or that we are incompetent at our job, or that we are weak and should have stood up to the bully in the meeting? I don’t know about you, but these bouts of doubt happen fairly often to me. Just this week I was fretting over a conversation and my worrying about it seeped into my prayer time. I’m glad it did because that gave me some space to detach from the emotion and reflect on it from a deeper perspective.
We are living in a time and place when division, anger, and violence confront us almost daily. How could we not let that sink into our consciousness and turn those negative emotions inward on ourselves and outward to those we are told we should fear? Politicians, businesses, business competitors are all trying to deliberately twist our emotions in order to foster their own gain. If we let them.
As I reflected on this I remembered the bible quote, “love your neighbor as yourself.” I believe that the second part of that exhortation is actually where we need to begin. We have to love ourselves. We have to be tender with ourselves and only then, can we love and be tender with others. I realize that I am on a journey in this life and as such – I am incomplete. I am (hopefully) still learning how to be me and how to navigate through this world. And I recognize that if it is true for me, then it is also true for everyone else.
As the political party conventions end and the campaigns kick into high gear, we may benefit from remembering this: “Be tender with your soul and that of all others. We are each pilgrims in this life and our journey is not yet complete.”
Michael Soika has been a community activist for more than 30 years working on issues of social and economic justice. His work for justice is anchored by his spiritual formation first as a Catholic and now as a Quaker.