There’s always a choice

There are many things in the world that we really have no control over. And there are a whole lot of things that we really have no influence over either. Wars in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine are out of control and influence. What we want to happen really doesn’t matter. No one is consulting with us about these things and how they should be “resolved.” Resolved is a generous term for such things. There’s been so much death and destruction. You can’t really fix any part of it and make it better.

In the US we have an election coming up. There will be millions upon millions of people voting and there will be a variety of results. It’s not just a presidential election. We have elections for all sorts of offices this year – federal and state. And we each get one vote. And depending on where you are, that vote might not make much of a difference in the outcome in your state. These elections cause a great deal of anxiety for many people – concerned about the outcome and who might be in positions of power and what that might mean. We really don’t have control over the outcome, and we really don’t have much influence. We should certainly vote. I’m not arguing from a standpoint of all is hopeless. Voting is something in your power to exercise. We just don’t get to determine what the outcome is.

Big things like war and national elections have a way of occupying our attention. And because they are so big, they remind us that we really have no control. They are so big that they remain abstract and keep us in a state of anxiety with all the uncertainty about them. Anxiety is good for ratings after all. And fundraising. And swaying votes. But it’s not good for our health – whether we are talking about mental, emotional, relational, physical, or any other type of health. We live in a society that has decided it is profitable to have a never ending election in which the upcoming election is always the most important in our history (until the next one starts). And regardless of whether that is true or not, doesn’t change the fact that it is not normal or healthy to live like this. And it is not the sign of a healthy society.

But we have a choice. There is always a choice.   It’s a choice between moving in the direction of cruelty or healing.

We move in either one of these directions with our choices individually as well as corporately (as in a community, a state, a government, a business, a religion, a club, etc). We move in either of these directions through out laws, through what we actually value (as opposed to what we claim to value), through how we interact, through what we do.

When we move in the direction of cruelty, we follow a long history of decisions. And cruelty can give us short term results. But cruelty never produces the long term effects that we are hoping for. People don’t like to be treated with cruelty and will push back. And then what do we do – add more cruelty? Because apparently there wasn’t enough cruelty?

I have found that cruelty is really a projection of our own pain, suffering, and victimization at the hands of others or systems.  It is our attempt to establish the appearance and feel of control of ourselves, others, and the world around us.  It can be done through individuals, policies, laws, and societal expectations. It is the belief that we can force reality to change to our desires.  

But it never works out.  We have to continuously apply cruelty without a break.  But eventually we get tired, we lose strength, we let down our guard, we die.  And what was it all for?  What did we gain and what do we leave behind?  A trail of pain, suffering, and cruelty. 

I have found that the opposite of cruelty is healing. Healing comes from a place of pain as well.  It is the projection of what we hope for. In healing we see no need to make others suffer just because we suffer.  Making others suffer doesn’t reduce our pain or suffering.  It makes it worse.  

Healing is hopeful that the future is better than the present.  It is saying out loud that there is a better way and that we can choose to embrace it. Healing is letting go of revenge, of what is deserved, of getting even, of making someone pay. It’s a recognition that we’ll never reach that. And we so we yield being ahead. We accept loss. We accept that what has happened was undeserved. And we decide that what is deserved is something better.

Healing is about shalom, moving towards wholeness and completeness.  It is seeing wholeness that already exists and inviting others into it. Healing moves us towards trust. Healing is about peace as the process and way, not the destination.  Healing sees reality and offers people an invitation to take what is and use it for something good.  

We can move in the direction of cruelty or of healing. Cruelty seems like an easier choice, but it is costly and exhausting. It lends itself towards our ego desires to get what is deserved. Healing is harder. Because it goes against so much of society. It isn’t interested in what is deserved. It offers what we don’t deserve. And rejoices when people accept the invitation. Healing offers rest. I don’t know about you – but I’m tired. Tired of the non-stop inescapable cruelty of the world. It just seems like it won’t ever end. I don’t have control over that. And I really don’t have influence over it either. But I have a choice. There will be times when I choose cruelty. And I already that I will regret those decisions. But I’m human. But Lord help me to keep my eyes on healing and head in its direction as often as possible.

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