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How Do You Fix a Broken World? Start With Yourself.

“The Beloved sometimes wants to do us a great favor: Hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.”— Hafiz

One of the great tenets of good fiction writing is this: “Pressure reveals character. The greater the pressure, the truer the revelation." To write a good story, you have to put your characters through hell. That’s the only way to reveal what they're really like inside. People can put on a show and fake a lot of things when the pressure's off. But once you start applying the screws, the real person comes out. The tighter the screws, the more real the person becomes. Sometimes the pressure reveals a truly heroic soul hidden in everyday clothes. Other times it exposes a fool masquerading as a strong man.

We’ve all certainly noticed that the pressure is on these days. It’s been steadily increasing for the past several years. Our world is effectively being turned upside down, and all the nonsense is getting shaken out of us—which is to say, it’s being forced out of the shadows and into the full light of day for everyone to see. What’s been hidden inside us—both personally and on a societal level—is getting pushed out in the open, and our true colors are being revealed.

Whenever this happens, our natural inclination is to point fingers at things outside ourselves. The problem is that crazy woman, or that power-hungry man. It’s this institution, or that suspicious group. It’s this church, or that country. It’s this corporation, or that minority group.

But while we get very keen on scrutinizing everyone and everything around us, we seem equally keen to avoid any serious examination of ourselves: What is all this heightened pressure exposing in me? How am I contributing to the problems I see out there? How am I just like the people I am accusing of evil? What kind of person am I turning into under the weight of all this uncertainty? What am I putting out in the world in response to all this pressure...

  • trust, or suspicion?

  • humility, or judgment?

  • peace, or violence?

  • love, or fear?

"The tree is known by its fruit," Jesus said. So when the pressure’s on, which kind of fruit do you produce?

There’s a lot you can’t control about what’s happening in the world. But you can control what’s happening in you. You can control what you think, and what you say, and what you do, and what you put out into the world though any of those means. You can control whether you will allow fear to dominate your faith, or anger to dominate your love. You can control whether you will or will not pass judgment on those who have come to different conclusions than you have concerning what everyone agrees is a time rife with confusion and manipulative messaging. Essentially, you can control whether you will contribute to the chaos, or stand in the midst of it as an agent of Divine love.

This is what Jesus did. Rather than attack Rome, he laid down his life for the Romans. Rather than disparage the Samaritan woman at the well, he laid down his life for the Samaritans. Rather than publicly mock all the sinners for their idiotic thinking and stupid choices, he laid down his life for everyone who sins.The only group he publicly attacked were the religious elite, because their self-righteousness blinded them from seeing how their so-called “righteous” worldview was actually adding to the darkness of those days.

With some honest self evaluation, it’s not hard to see that the problems we are facing today are not just “out there.” The fault doesn’t lie exclusively with “them,” because the deeper truth is there is no “them.” There is only us—us humans all living together on this one little planet—and we have each played a part in creating the world as it is now. We are each, in our own particular ways, part of the current problem. Ultimately, that’s good news, because it means we are each also capable of becoming part of the solution.

Addressing the nonsense in the world must begin with addressing the nonsense in ourselves—or it doesn't begin at all. Putting all the blame “out there” is how the world got this way in the first place. That kind of externalizing only perpetuates our shared struggle, “kicking the can down the road,” as it were, leaving it for our children or our children’s children to resolve.

Will you take some time out this week, and honestly consider how you would answer the questions posed in this post? I’ll be doing the same.

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