By Meg McCraken
Hollow prayers mean nothing on the lips of the comfortably complacent. Please keep your heads and hearts open enough to hear me out, because I know that I am complicit too. And being complicit, I am not just a victim, but fully empowered to do my part to make a change.
Now, of course, we send out our thoughts and our prayers to those effected by the country’s latest mass shooting. And we will continue to do just that, until we can’t just do that anymore. Until it is our child who is never coming home; our well-loved son or daughter who is mentally ill and begins hurting themselves or another; our brother who lives at the bottom of a bottle; our sister who sinks into the abys of depression; our own aching heart that breaks so deeply that we can’t help but project that pain.
So today while many of us rest, relatively safe and sound, thinking and praying for the tragedies of life, I ask: why wait? Why wait for our turn? Is there nothing that can be done in the moment, before this kind of earth shattering truth knocks on our door?
I wholeheartedly believe that the answer is yes.
Is the answer in dealing with the growing mental health crisis? YES.
Is the answer in regulated gun control and responsible ownership? YES.
Is the answer in better parenting? YES.
Is the answer in exposing the roots and removing the seeds of bullying? YES.
Is the answer in examining our use of technology and its content? YES.
Is the answer in more personal responsibility and accountability? YES.
Is the answer in resourcing our law enforcement and leaders well? YES.
Is the answer in rethinking our current justice system? YES.
Is the answer in dealing with the unique socio-economic challenges we face today? YES.
Is the answer in local, state and federal legislation? YES.
Is the answer in checking our complex relationship with big corporations? YES.
Is the answer in insisting on integrity in the media? YES.
Is the answer in developing better personal and societal emotional intelligence? YES.
Is the answer in cultivating our capacity to connect and communicate well? YES.
Is the answer in reclaiming the power of our own simple, every-day choices? YES.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to all of this.
Because the truth is – it’s complicated. The roots of violence in our world is multi-faceted, entrenched and entangled. So, we are up against a huge challenge, because it is psychologically proven that in the face of such complexity we either:
- become paralyzed, check out and numb out.
- strive for simplicity that our heads can wrap around, thus stunting the growth of effective and lasting solutions.
- begin blaming, pointing fingers and lashing out, which ultimately gives our personal power away to another person, group of people, faceless entity, or fear itself.
So how do we honor the complexity of the problem without minimizing, hiding or adding to the hurt at its root? How do we own our part in the problem, our power to solve it, and take skillful action to do something, no matter how small, that is useful and clear? How can we avail ourselves of this opportunity to become better?
Let’s start by looking at these tremendous clashes that are taking place on the internet, in the news, in our families and among our friends and adversaries. These hostile, stalemate arguments that have sprung up once again, can auger us deeper in to polarized isolation, or we can use them to point us towards our common need: to keep ourselves, our children and our loved ones safe in an all-too-violent world. If we listen well, we hear how these heated discussions are desperate with a sense of helplessness and the wise knowing that the problem is bigger than any one of us. It’s in the heat of our anger that flares up in these conversations, where the seed of what matters to us lives - and therein lies our part in the solution. And, if we ask better questions, with true curiosity and a want for deeper understanding, we can discover what seeds lie in the heat of another’s fear.
Now, in our urge to simplify, it can be easy to turn to the latest soundbites (which are often spiked with addictive drama) for our own threads of truth and meaning. But instead I beg you to research your heart well. Get really curious. Why are you upset? What are you angry about? What are you afraid of? What’s at the root of that fear? What sets your heart on fire and makes it beat faster? What’s the truth behind that fire? What facet of the issue speaks to you? Are you drawn to politics, education, community, parenting, technology, psychology, etc.? What have you got to give that is life-giving? What does your advocacy look like, big scale, day-to-day, right now? How can you be of service and be part of the solution?
The key is this - each of us holds a piece - 1 piece, 1 perspective that is part of the complex solution. So, if we are really serious about effecting positive change, it is essential that we each discover and own the piece of the puzzle that we have been given to place in this life. Then we must take action to place that piece in a useful way. Make no mistake, though your effort may seem small and your part insignificant, you are powerful beyond measure and each action you take ripples out further than you can ever possibly imagine.
The solutions to mass shootings and violence, and the other massive challenges we face in our world today, do not rest solely in the hands of a powerful few. Of course, it rests in the hands of our politicians, it rests in the hands of our corporations, in the hands of our community leaders, our religious and spiritual guides, in the hands of our schools and our teachers, and in the hands of our families.
But the most potent truth of all is that a piece of the solution lies within the palms of your hands. So, with these hands may we pray. May we pray and remember that prayer is a practice of love, and that love is a practice of action.
Pope Francis said: “You pray for the hungry, then you go out and feed the people. That’s how the prayer works”. Because our values are just ideas until they are put into action.
What will you pray for with your actions today? How will you remember what matters? How will you live your piece of the solution? How can we all get better at truly discovering and celebrating each other?
Hollow prayers mean nothing on the lips of the comfortably complacent. But active, heart-centered prayers in the hands of the truly empowered become the invincible commanding forces of creation and evolution.