Since the election last week, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering, internalizing and processing. I’ve struggled with confusion, with fear, anxiety, anger pain and a lot of sadness. A lot of those feelings have come from witnessing the brutality and hatred directed toward so many people that I love and respect dearly. Normally, I prefer to remain silent about topics like politics and religion because joining those types of conversations causes me great anxiety. But this week I feel compelled to speak up, to share and publicly own what’s in my heart. Please understand that this is a vulnerable thing for me to do, but I share because of some compulsion outside of myself. I’ve tried to ignore it, but I know this is something I need to do. I hope that you’ll understand that what I say is more of a personal epiphany than anything else, so it’s not meant to point fingers. However, in a world where inaction has consequences, I’ve realized that I can’t sit back in the shadows anymore and listen to the war of words around me without taking action. I need to be an active participant, and although this is a small step, it’s how I’d like to start. So here goes.
When I was 8 years old, I made a commitment to God that I would mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I made a commitment that I would do my best to bear the burdens of those around me. I have tried hard to keep this commitment, but I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always lived up to it as fully as I should. I know hundreds of others who have made the same commitment that I’ve made, and I’ve also seen many of them failing to live up to this commitment (I’m not pointing fingers, merely making an observation). The amount of “get over it already” comments, and “we had to deal with so and so” that I’ve heard in the past 6 days has given me great pause. I’ve seen a lot of it coming from people who I love and respect, and that has gotten me thinking- why is it hard to accept the validity of others’ pain? I have experienced a fair amount of discrimination in my short life, but I also recognize and know that my life has been one of immense privilege, especially in comparison to SO many others. I won’t pretend do understand what it feels like to be a minority right now. Or to be LGBTQ, or Muslim, or disabled, or a victim of sexual assault, or so much more. I have not personally experienced those struggles, but I love and care for many who have. I know that knowing people who have experienced those things doesn’t make me an expert, but what it does make me, is an ally. Or at least it should. Especially if I remember the commitment that I made as an 8-year-old. Although I have cause to mourn myself, I am in an important position to stand by those whose pain runs deep, because I promised I would.
Warning: I’m about to get a little more religious.
I’ve done my best in my life to model my actions after the person I believe is the greatest example of mourning with those who mourn- Jesus Christ. Here’s an example that I’ve been thinking about a lot this week, and I can’t get this one specific thought out of my head. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to Jesus on the road weeping. They were in despair, because their Lord who they believed and had faith could heal their brother, was too late to do so. On top of sadness, I imagine they also felt anger that Christ had taken so long to arrive. I’m pretty sure one of them even told him that if he’d been there sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. When he finally did arrive though, rather than scold them for their grief, he cried with them. He mourned with them and comforted them. He validated their need to FEEL, and to process their grief, even though he knew that Lazarus would be ok in the end. He was the ultimate example of bearing another’s burdens, regardless of the outcome. He could have easily told them to calm down, to get over it, because hey, He knows something they didn’t- He had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead and to end their sorrow, and he was going to do it. But would saying that to them have really ended their sorrow? I don’t think so. The reality is, Lazarus died. That in and of itself was cause to mourn. The miracle Jesus performed didn’t negate the fact that a tragedy HAPPENED. Yes, Lazarus rose from the dead and continued on in this life, but it didn’t erase the grief and pain and heartache that came from his death. The grieving needed to happen, and Mary and Martha needed to be validated in their grief. They didn’t need Christ to tell them to get over it, they needed him to mourn with them, and mourn with them he did.
Now, I’m not comparing Lazarus’ death to what’s going on today, nor am I saying that some miracle is going to happen and we’re all going to be saved from the disasters and heartache that surround us every day. I don’t have any idea whether things are going to get better, or worse. What I do know, is that I am bringing a daughter into a world that have a lot of anxiety about, and I am terrified of the things that she will have to experience and endure in her lifetime. But I want her to learn from me, that love wins over hate. I want her to learn from me that it’s ok for others to hurt, and we don’t have to tell them to get over it just because we don’t understand it. I want her to learn from me to stand up for the people she cares about, and lend her voice to the voiceless. I want her to understand, if and when she decides to make the same commitment that I did at 8 years old, what it truly means to bear another’s burdens, because she’s watched me do it. I want her to know that it’s okay for her to feel angry, sad, afraid, frustrated, hurt and upset, and I want to help her learn how to work through those emotions so they don’t control her. I also want her to know that it’s okay to feel excited, happy, exuberant, triumphant, proud, joyful and powerful. I want her to be unapologetic about who she is, and accept others for being unapologetic about who they are. I want her to sit with the lonely child at lunch, and speak up to the bully who makes fun of her friend for wearing the wrong clothes, or having a different skin color or culture. I want her to be passionate about things that make her feel alive, and I want her to have integrity to do the right thing. I can’t expect her to do any of these things, if I don’t set the example though. I can’t trust that she will learn these traits from anyone else.
I have witnessed and experienced so much pain and heartache this year- whether it’s because of the recent election, family tragedies, natural disasters, or a myriad of other tragic and devastating circumstances and events. The pain is real, the anguish is real. I feel it, and I know so many others feel it even more deeply than I. I don’t know how long it will take for me to fully comprehend recent events, and I can’t even begin to put a timeline on how long it should take for you. We may find that we’re ok next week. It might take 4 years. It may take forever. Or some of you may be over it already. And that’s ok. It’s all ok. Because we have a right to mourn, or not. We have a right to express our fear, anger, frustration and sadness in whatever way we need to, or to not express it at all. You see, it’s not my prerogative to decide how you, or anyone else, should process what’s happening in this world. We’re all different, and our experiences are all different. Circumstances are all different. Different isn’t bad.
All different means, is that I don’t know what you’re going through, and you don’t know what I’m going through, so rather than condemning, judging and dismissing others because we don’t understand them, let’s mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Let’s listen without condemning. Let’s really hear people. Let’s validate their pain, and tell them their stories are important. Let’s show them that we care by supporting their causes, their needs and their safety. Let’s get involved in local politics and issues. Let’s write letters to our legislators, and show up to PTA meetings. Let’s speak up when we see something wrong happening, whether it’s happening to someone we know or not. Let’s look out for one another, and let’s put our money where our mouth is (if and when we have the ability to do so). Let’s remember that this world isn’t black or white- it’s hundreds of thousands of shades of the rainbow, and sometimes my magenta looks a lot like your razzle-dazzle-rose. We don’t all see through the same lens, and that’s what makes the world beautiful. We need each other. We need to build each other up rather than tearing each other down. Let’s not use politics as an excuse to discriminate, violate or condemn our brothers and sisters. Instead, let’s use love to guide our actions.
So, for my daughter, who’s name reminds me to believe there is still good in the world, I am choosing to speak up. I don’t want to remain silent, I want to actively be a shoulder to lean on, someone to cry with. I’m not sure yet what that looks like, and I’d love ideas if you have them. Please tell me how I can comfort, and mourn with you.
P.S. If you’d like a refresher on the commitment I made as an 8-year-old, you can find it in Mosiah 18:8-9. Here’s the excerpt that I’ve been pondering this week:
8 …And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death…