The bald eagle has long been a symbol of our nation. This painting is a symbol of how our nation is feeling right now.
There is a lot of anger.
We are angry at the injustice that has gone on too long.
We are angry at people who don’t seem to understand our point of view.
We are angry at the unproductive violence and destructive looting taking place in our communities.
We are angry at our leaders and the media and this damn virus.
First of all, let me say this: It’s ok to be angry.
I am reminded of my first visit to Miami. One of the main things Kim and I wanted to do was experience South Beach. Three minutes into the only opportunity we had to spend time there, it started to downpour. The weather forecast indicated it would stay that way all day. We had no choice but to postpone our beach fun for another time.
As Kim drove through the city, raindrops raced across the windshield taunting me, and I sat in the passenger seat sulking. I felt guilty for doing so. I am the guy who makes a living fighting Adultitis, and here I was smack dab in the middle of an Adultitis-riddled pity party. I should be able to let this roll right off me, I thought. I am a hypocrite of the highest order, I thought.
Then, at that moment, I decided to be kind to myself. I gave myself permission to sulk. I gave myself permission to be disappointed, to feel the hurt, and to entertain the thought that the universe had conspired against me to send rain clouds and ruin my day. As I sat there fuming, I threw myself a most extravagant pity party.
And after about fifteen minutes, I started to feel better. I was ready to start thinking about all the good things we were able to do in Miami, and how in the grand scheme of things, this little thunderstorm was as small as it gets. In the end, the change of plans only ruined about fifteen minutes, instead of the whole day.
I am all for being optimistic and positive thinking. But life is meant to be lived and it’s meant to be felt. Sometimes the feelings are joy and elation, sometimes they are disappointment and grief, but they are all a part of being truly alive. Putting on a happy face to mask some sadness is not all that different from using food or drugs or alcohol to numb some deep pain. The problem is that those feelings never really go away, and in many cases, they bubble up later with devastating consequences.
Right now, we are angry and we are hurt.
People have been hurt by racism.
People have been hurt by poverty.
People have been hurt by political divisiveness.
People have been hurt by this pandemic: physically, financially, and emotionally.
Something Kim and I try to teach our kids and thus remind ourselves of is this: hurt people hurt people.
Moments like these always seem to call for a good inspirational quote.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”–Yoda
Truth comes in many forms, and sometimes it comes in the form of a diminutive green Jedi master. Fear really has been the source of all this, starting with a tiny virus that arrived uninvited.
We are afraid that we might lose our life, our livelihood, or someone we love.
We are afraid that what we have will be taken from us.
We are afraid that we or someone we love will suffer great injustice.
We have lost so much, and are afraid that we will lose even more.
And for decades, we have been slyly tricked by so many dishonest leaders and an overwhelmingly dishonest media, drunk on power and ratings, to be afraid of the others, the ones who look different, vote different, and have different perspectives than us.
As Yoda warned, this fear leads to anger, which leads to hate, which has led to suffering.
Hurt people hurt people.
The way forward is not to keep hurting one another. That is not who we are. We are America. We are a melting pot of beautiful cultures and diverse perspectives unified under a banner of freedom and a spirit of courage, compassion, and cooperation.
We are not perfect, but deep down, we are good.
It’s okay to be angry. But may God give us the grace to transform it into a righteous anger that fuels ruthless, senseless acts of love.
That’s the prescription: do something recklessly generous in the next few days for someone who won’t see it coming. Something that goes against the narrative that’s been fed to us by our news media.
I leave you with one more quote, not from a Jedi master, but from another wise sage, an evangelist named John:
“There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.”– 1 John 4:18
If we banish our fear and commit to instigate small rebellions of love…it is inevitable that we will soar again.