Yesterday, I had planned to write something light-hearted just to prove I’m not always a negative Nelly; however, another quick perusal of world headlines quashed any light-heartedness I may have felt. Horrific executions in the Middle East; ineffective politicians squabbling amongst themselves; people freezing to death; mass shootings; animals starving; planes and trains crashing; and, sprinkled amongst the horror, a smattering of pointless updates on the celebrity “du jour.” No wonder I felt what little joy I had slowly fade away only to be replaced with feelings of emptiness, anger, and guilt.
The emptiness and anger aren’t new to me. I think I’ve learned to “reason” successfully with these feelings whenever they drop by for a visit. While the atrocities we inflict upon one another sometimes leave me feeling hopeless, I alone cannot stop the world’s violence. I can’t stop people from hurting each other. The way in which conservatives are often berated in the news leaves me feeling angry, however, devoting all that negative emotion to those who assume we are all unintelligent, war-mongering, bigoted homophobes is unproductive and hurts no one but myself. Mankind has committed violent acts and spewed venom at one another long before I was here and it will continue to do so long after I’m gone. But dealing with the guilt is a bit more challenging, and it has recently become a more present and lingering “guest” especially after I have taken a dip in the cesspool we call news.
I feel guilty because I spend so much time complaining about life in general forgetting that things could be so much worse. Guilty because I am tucked up in bed, safe and warm, protected from the elements, when others around the world are not. Guilty because I can satisfy my thirst when my throat is parched and my hunger when my stomach is empty. Guilty because I live in the land of plenty although there are still many for whom this is a land of poverty. And still I complain…my house is a mess…my kitchen needs new cabinets…the restaurant is out of my favorite dish…I have to wait five more months before I can upgrade my cell phone…the computer keeps crashing…I’ve put on five pounds. How quickly I forget that there are people in the world with REAL problems.
There are the families of those fighting terror in dangerous war zones worrying if their loved ones will ever return home alive; those forced to witness their loved ones being paraded in front of the world by terrorists as they await an inevitably barbaric execution. Can you imagine what that must be like? Surely it is a unique kind of torture in and of itself knowing your son, daughter, brother, husband, father, sister, mother is about to be murdered for the whole world to see and you are helpless to comfort or protect them in any way. I think about the hostages themselves as they wait for these cowards to enact what they consider a righteous justice. These men and women know what’s coming to them – how terrifying that must be and yet still many manage to exhibit a graceful courage in the face of impending death.
That’s not to say we don’t each encounter real problems and tragedies in our everyday lives, of course we do. People are fighting their own battles to stay alive as they cope with physical and mental illness; they’re experiencing loss and heartache daily and I do not mean to diminish those realities in any way. Unfortunately, we don’t often hear about the daily struggles of those closer to home unless they are occurring within the confines of our little corner of the world and so, right or wrong, I think it is easier to get more wrapped up in the big stories and tragedies of the world.
I have yet to figure out how to reason with guilt. Can you reason with guilt? Should you reason with guilt? Thus far, the only thing I can think of is to try to keep things in perspective – take a moment to remember that the world is bigger than my problems. I need to slow down and be mindful that there are others suffering not only in far off places of the world but also in my country, my state, and my city. I should be more grateful and thankful for what I have here and now. I should seek opportunities to help those around me instead of focusing on myself . And, I should pray. I should pray a lot.