Let me start by making this clear: just as I have never told anyone how I’ve voted, I am not going to talk politics here. But I do have something I believe is vital to say to each of us today (including myself).
I played soccer for eight years in high school and college. I usually played fullback and was a grass-in-the-teeth kind of player. I remember once being pulled from a game after my leg got mangled. I needed help to even get up and hobble off the field. More than the considerable pain, though, I felt anger. I shouted over and over at the coach, “Don’t you pull me from this game! I can play!”
I loved soccer. But, as contradictory as it may seem, I hated (and still do hate) competition. You see, in every competition, there are winners and losers. And that was always a conflict for me, being the highly empathetic sort.
After each game, it was more or less required that each team line up facing one another in single file and then walk by each member of the other team. Typically, you’d low-five, saying, “Good game, good game, good game…” in rapid succession. But most of the time, you knew neither team meant it. It’s what passed for “good sportsmanship” and was supposed to teach some lesson or other.
For me, on the other hand, it was never quite that easy.
If we lost, I took it personally. I should’ve done better. At the same time, I wanted to encourage every downtrodden member of my team, or help talk others down from their adrenaline-fueled rage. And yet, I also truly wanted to congratulate individual members of the other team who had played well and won.
If we won, we would jump up and down in the close-knit huddle cheering, or smack one another on the back harder than we knew was necessary. However, I also felt keenly aware of the losing team members and knew how dejected and disappointed they felt. So I’d pull myself from the next teammate’s growling embrace and head on over to specific players on the other team, telling them what I admired about their game or a particular play they’d made.
Last night, an important decision was made.
Upon learning the result of that decision, half of the people I love and care about began celebrating, filled with a sense of relief and hope for the future.
The other half of the people I love and care about were shocked, mourning, fearful — even visibly and uncontrollably shaking and weeping in panic.
Statistically, the above scenario more or less sums up our country today. About 50% are celebrating, and 50% are terrified.
Had the race gone the other way, we’d have exactly the same split and scenario. Half and half.
That means that, whichever camp you fall into, half of the people around you right now feel exactly the way you would have had the “swings” swung the other direction by mere percentage points.
The central idea of The Best Advice So Far is this: “You always have a choice.” Yet I’m careful to immediately follow in Chapter One by saying this:
I’m not saying that we get to choose everything that happens to us in life … and we can at no time choose to undo those things which have happened to us in life …. We do, however, have the choice of how we will respond in every situation, even the hurtful ones. Instead, so often, we pour our frustration and anger into those things we cannot change, rather than investing that energy into the many choices that we can make from that point forward.
This is not just rhetoric for me. It’s my lifeline, my tether to peacefulness. Putting it into disciplined practice is the reason I’m able to stay focused and hopeful and positive when the surrounding circumstances are anything but.
Up through yesterday, we each had certain choices.
To be politically active for our candidate or not.
To vote or not.
And if you chose to vote, you also exercised your right to choose a candidate.
Today, those choices no longer exist. But new choices have moved in to take their place.
I think back to my soccer days, to that dilemma I faced every game between how to celebrate and yet encourage and empathize with the other team, or how to mourn a loss while still being kind to my opponent.
Here today, after the most embroiled and contentious election in my lifetime thus far, the choices feel much the same for me. But there are other choices we each must make, as well.
Will we gloat at the expense of others who are hurting — or be respectful and treat others as we would like to have been treated had the margin moved a hair the other way?
Will we live in fear and dread — or decide to live out our ideals on a personal level in renewed ways, rekindling our passion and our stand for what we believe in?
Will we magnify our differences — or seek to understand one another and build upon our commonalities?
What I’m sure of — regardless of how we each decided to cast our vote — is that hate is never right. And choosing to love is never wrong.
Let’s choose to love each other with grass-in-the-teeth commitment today and in the days ahead.