I don’t know about you, but the past few months (and especially the last few days), have left me completely disenchanted and even depressed by the state of the world today. Specifically, in regards to our country and its political affairs.
I’ve always been proud to be an American. I take pride in our rich history—full of mistakes as it may be—our “melting pot” culture, and the Christian principles on which our nation was built. But lately, the foundation appears to be crumbling.
And I’m sad. I’m sad about the hatred and prejudice that still exists on every street corner. I’m enraged by the sexual harassment and belittlement that women still endure on a daily basis—by our professional and political “leaders,” no less. I’m disgusted by the lies and corruption that has made its way into the highest positions of power. I’m terrified of what kind of country my grandkids will call home years from now. And, frankly, I’m confused by how we even got here in the first place.
But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m not writing to complain, or vent, or urge you towards one candidate or another. Honestly, I couldn’t choose between them if I tried.
I’m simply writing to better understand what’s going through my head. And to remind myself (and perhaps you) that while we can’t change the state of the world overnight, we can change something. If absolutely nothing else, we can alter our way of thinking.
My Dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.
Keep up the good work,
The paragraph above was written anonymously under the guise of an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and has been floating around the interwebs all week. For those of you who have seen it and reacted strongly to its message, I hate to inform you that the “excerpt” is in fact fake. But if you ask me, I’d say there’s still value in the point the author is trying to make—wouldn’t you? When I read it for the first time a few days ago (before I knew the truth), I thought to myself, “What a brilliant scheme on the part of Screwtape.” Sadly, it rings true.
Because you see, dear readers, with every passing day, I find myself becoming a little more bitter towards the broken world in which we live than the day before. More heartbroken, frustrated, and flat out angry at the circumstances that have led us to where we are.
But tell me: who, besides myself, is to blame? Who’s responsible for the animosity in my heart? In the “pretend” words of C.S. Lewis, my personal virtue and character have stopped advancing; my inner peace has stopped developing. I’m so focused on what’s happening outside of myself that the very essence of who I am is in danger. Between watching the debates and reading the news, I’m constantly on the edge of going insane, and at risk of losing what makes me different: Soft-heartedness, compassion, patience. A childlike-quality that once made it easy to see the good in everyone.
The light in our eyes as a nation is dimming, and will continue to dim, if we allow our hearts to turn to stone. Whoever wrote these unsettling words were trying, I imagine, to encourage people to stay connected to one another. To turn anger and fear into faith—and to remain hopeful, even when all seems lost.
I’m not advocating ignorance or naïveté, and I’m pretty sure the anonymous author wasn’t either. I don’t disagree that there are causes worth fighting for with all of your strength. But beyond that, I believe the more effective (and honorable) fight is choosing to embody peace, embrace joy, and spread love during the especially troubling times. The times that it matters most.
Because that is how a changed world—a better world—becomes possible. Piece by piece, person by person. Until there is no hatred or prejudice or corruption left.
October 24th marks the first day of early voting (in Texas) for the 45th president of the United States. I plan on brushing up on the issues and policies that are important to me, voting my conscience, and then letting it be. No matter who is elected, the sun will rise on November 9th. Life will go on.
Saint Francis de Sales said, “Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
Our world may be upset, but from this point on, I choose not to be.
Photo by Morgan Sessions.