In our rush to point out, fix, and dwell on the wrongs in our country (past + present), let’s not forget we’ve done an awful lot of good as well! We become what we focus on, and stay what we ignore! So, while we definitely need to see, name, and heal our junk, I think it’s vital we also celebrate our past, present, and future goodness! While I see people dividing and fighting over things like whether America is beautiful OR brutal, supporting liberals OR conservatives, and so on, I wonder if there’s a better path forward? The shift that’s made a world of difference for me is changing my mentality from either/or to both/and thinking. We’ve been beautiful AND brutal; liberals AND conservatives belong and have gifts we need.
What I’m talking about is non-dualistic thinking, or unitive consciousness. While dualistic, either/or thinking is helpful for driving, eating, and putting clothes on, it’s woefully lacking when it comes to big and complex issues, which just so happens to be where much of life resides. On the topic of America, have you noticed how when someone talks about the ills of our history and current society, some people will get defensive and quickly point out the wrongs of other people groups and the great things the U.S. has done? While others seem to talk about nothing but our country’s shortcomings, having seemingly no interest in the good we’ve done? I have, and I get it.
This makes me think of the gag impulse and throwing up. While we often think of vomiting as gross and maybe even “bad”, physiologically it’s simply our body identifying an impurity (i.e. toxin/poison) and expelling it. I mention that because the animal aspect of humans is literally wired to oppose and reject what it sees as wrong, threatening, and dangerous. It seems to me this is why it’s hard for us to embrace America as BOTH beautiful and brutal, see the goodness in BOTH liberals and conservatives, or name the ongoing problem of racism while also celebrating the strides we’ve already made. Our immediate, instinctual impulse is to reject, “punch”, ignore, or run from anything that seems “wrong” to us, especially the wrongs that are within us!
SO many people I’ve talked to recently have bemoaned the propensity to divide, argue, shame, and take sides in our current political, racial, religious, and economic climate. “Things are just going to get worse and worse if we keep ‘yelling’ at and demonizing those who disagree with us. Why can’t we compromise and talk civilly anymore?” have been common refrains from people I’ve spoken with. To live in and with an either/or worldview means constantly needing to label people, groups, beliefs, and ideas as good OR bad, in OR out, wrong OR right, and while occasionally this is important and helpful (murder and abuse are wrong for instance), mostly it is harmful and hurtful to all involved because life is WAY more messy and complex than either/or thinking.
As silly or simple as it may sound, to be whole, and thus fully alive, is to be whole. To be whole is to own both one’s light and dark, triumphs and tragedies, and gifts and griefs. The path to wholeness as a nation, in my humble opinion, is owning the wrongs we did to indigenous peoples, African Americans, and so on without qualification, excuse, or pointing out what they did to “us”, or others did to them (that’s their jobs), while simultaneously championing the freedom, education, and opportunity we’ve also brought into the world.
To shift our collective consciousness from either/or to both/and thinking, is to move our communal experience and reality from opposition, violence, and division to mutuality, peace, and unity.
This doesn’t just apply to nations, though, I’ve personally found it to be an incredibly life-giving shift in thinking too. To acknowledge and own our darkness, and we ALL have it, is the first step in setting us free from it! We can’t transform what we don’t own. Meanwhile, keeping our eyes on our gifts and deep-soul beauty, which we ALL also have, is the first step in fully entering into and becoming the blessing you and I were born to be!
One particularly relevant way this mentality has blessed me and others is the practice of “joyful solutions”, which I got from an author who goes by SARK. In relationships (especially marriages and partnerships) it’s important to compromise. Yet, while compromising is helpful, it often leaves either one, or both, parties upset for feeling they’ve given too much and/or more than the other. To search for a joyful solution is to believe and be committed to finding not a compromise, but an answer that’s enjoyable to BOTH parties! It’s a movement from either she OR I getting our way, to both her AND I are feeling heard and happy. And four years in, my wife and I have found it to be 100% doable and successful.
In the midst of all the social, racial, and political upheaval and divides in both the U.S. and the world, I truly believe communal joyful solutions are possible! And I can’t help but think shifting from either/or to both/and thinking will help us. We do so by naming and owning the brutality both within our individual selves and our country, so we can heal it and make amends, while simultaneously naming and owning our deep beauty, so we can move more fully into it. While the crap in ourselves (or society) that we ignore will continue to infect and injure us, the beauty and benefits within ourselves (or our society) we focus on will become our destiny.
As always, thanks for reading, I pray this blessed you, and I hope you have an amazing day!
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