This column will appear a few days before the presidential election. Obviously, some of us will be exhilarated after the election. Our candidate(s) will win! Others of us may feel depressed after the election. Our candidate(s) will lose. Such reactions are normal. We live in a sports-dominated culture. We think in terms of wins and losses.
Yet, while such reactions are typical, they are also part of the problem. If we have learned one thing from the past months of economic catastrophes, it is that we are all in this together. As someone wisely said: “Don’t rejoice that there is a leak in your enemy’s boat. Realize that you are in that same boat!”
How do we handle political losses? Obviously, most of us take this election very seriously. We vote for certain people because we respect their characters, their principles, their platforms and their plans. We believe that their leadership best reflects what is best for our country.
Obviously, we have to handle political losses the same way we handle any loss. We pass through the stages of sadness, anger, denial, bargaining and, finally, acceptance.
What can help facilitate our grieving? Let me suggest a few things.
First, prayer. Pray for your candidate who loses. Equally importantly, pray for the candidate who wins! If we spent as much time praying for the candidates as we do criticizing them, would not the world be much better off?
Second, focus on the good! What we look for, we will find. As I’ve said before, we don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. If we look for what’s wrong, we will find it. If we look for what’s right, we will find that, too.
Third, continue to work for the common good. We have to put the nation above our personal preferences. Tearing down and criticizing elected officials simply adds to the demoralization of our country. Let’s work together to get more of what we want, even if we can’t get all of what we want. For example, if we can’t end all abortions, let’s work to at least lessen the number of abortions. If we can’t end all wars, let’s work to minimize casualties. If we can’t insure every American, let’s at least insure more of them. If we can’t feed every hungry person, let’s at least feed more of them.
Politics is the art of the compromise. Compromise is not a dirty word if it assures that things get better, even if things don’t get perfect! In a moment of candor, a talk show host once revealed the secret of his success. He called in the three Cs: “Controversy creates cash!” People make a lot of money attacking and polarizing. We need healing and cooperation far more.
Finally, work on cultivating inner peace. Being angry, depressed or frustrated won’t change the election results. It just means that now there will be one more angry, depressed or frustrated person.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to work or advocate for what we believe. As one spiritual director put it: “Arm yourself with sword and shield, but keep your heart in the presence of God!”
How I feel impacts on the rest of the world. If I’m angry, I’m contributing to the anger of the world. If I’m frustrated, I’m contributing to the frustration of the world. If I’m peaceful, I’m contributing to the peace of the world. If I’m joyful, I’m contributing to the joy of the world. If I’m loving, I’m contributing to the love in the world.
There is a tabernacle in every heart where God lives. Focus on whatever helps you to feel peace, feel joy, feel love or feel healing. Feeling those feelings on a consistent basis will change the world more than any election results. Trust me. It’s true.