This presidential election season hasn’t been much fun. It’s a tense time for our country, with many significant issues at stake, and some of the ones that matter the most aren’t even being discussed.
As I follow many conversations about the candidates happening online, and even in person, I find myself wondering what it says to our children that many of the grown-ups who are voting in this election can’t engage in more civil, constructive, positive discourse.
It’s healthy for us to have different perspectives and opinions. It’s also healthy to share them. But as I watch the hostile exchanges among people I assume are well-intentioned, passionate, and proud to be Americans, I realize there are other lessons we could learn. They are lessons I have been trying to share with our children—and lessons I am trying to keep in mind myself.
First, a presidential election is important, but it’s not so important that we need to be afraid of the outcome. God is bigger than any problem or situation we encounter. This is a perfect time for us to pray, as we ask God to help us select good leaders for our nation who will make the right decisions, lead with compassion and honesty, and protect those who have no voice. When we get anxious about the election, our fear often leads to anger, and anger divides us. Division does not make us a stronger, more peaceful country, and it does not help draw us closer to Christ.
Second, the next president might not be the person we are hoping will win. So although we can absolutely explain to people why we are choosing one candidate over the other, we should speak with respect and realize that there is a chance our candidate will lose. There is an art to winning and losing gracefully, and it’s an art many of us—myself included—are still learning.
Third, if we find ourselves discussing the election with friends or even strangers, we should try to listen—and keep in mind the person we are talking to is as likely to change opinions as we are. Maybe we’ll find we have more in common with one another than we think. But we might also both realize that the conversation was a mistake and change the subject or walk away.
In a worst-case scenario, smile, move on, and think of what St. Augustine said: “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”
As I have been speaking with our children, trying to prepare them for the conversations I imagine they are having on the school playground this election season, I have tried to remind them that no person is perfect—not the people discussing politics or the people running for president or the mother who is trying to give them tools and advice to understand the presidential election. We just can’t expect people to be perfect.
We know, they say. Only God is perfect.
And they’re right, of course.
This election season, I’m especially grateful that He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Also: My friend and fellow Catholic Review blogger Julie Walsh is offering a prayer for our country.