Sexual Abuse. Refugee crises. War. Deforestation. Water shortages. Protests. Discrimination. Mass shootings. It seems like at every intersection, there is something going on in the world that blankets another layer of fear and despair over our hearts. In a time when maintaining inner peace seems as likely as reversing Earth’s orbit, here are three simple ideas for how to remain engaged and caring in the midst of chaos.
1. Be choosy with your news sources.
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This part can be tricky. We don’t want to safeguard ourselves from opinions that challenge ours because being challenged is how we grow. But we also don’t want to leave the floodgates open for any unchecked news sources, website or social media post to directly influence our heart and mind.
The more empathic you are, the more important this step is.
Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about turning away, or turning off your heart. I’m talking about protecting your heart, in order to preserve and nurture your compassionate spirit.
How many times have you begun down a path of interest, be it politically or otherwise, and discovered your initial excitement and curiosity dampened by a seemingly endless barrage of negative information?
If you see something beautiful, talk about it. Be the one to shine a light on acts of kindness and unexpected exchanges of love.
Pretty soon, it all becomes overwhelming, and we find ourselves saying things like, “I hate Facebook,” or “I just don’t check the news anymore.”
This burnout can be avoided by curating your newsfeed and web searches with informed, well-written information. Dedicate a certain amount of time toward understanding the news each day, and then when the time is up, close your device.
This will help you to stay informed, alert and prevent bitterness and fear from seeping in.
2. Remember to celebrate.
There’s a reason why Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement of expecting twins felt like the planet took a collective inhale: celebration is breath of fresh air. And it’s really, really easy to lose sight of the good in a world awash with constant political crisis.
Here’s the thing: pregnancies, births, engagements, promotions and Golden Retriever adoptions are happening every day. Joy is not as rare as we make it out to be.
If you see something beautiful, talk about it. And if you’re lucky enough to be a participant in a beautiful moment, for goodness sake, tell the story. Be the one to shine a light on acts of kindness and unexpected exchanges of love.
There is good there for those who want to see it.
3. Know the difference between restlessness and shame.
Restlessness says, “Something is wrong here. Even if I’m not entirely sure what, I’m not going to continue accepting the status quo. I will be brave enough to start poking some holes and asking questions until I figure out what needs to be done.”
Shame says, “Remember the last time you tried to make a change, and you failed? Best to accept things the way they are and stop being so ungrateful for what you do have.”
Fear is the enemy, yes. But fear can also be a compass.
The semester after I graduated college, I found myself performing a confusing ritual every day before work. I would pull into the parking lot outside the building, throw my car in park and then cry.
Nothing about it made sense, at the time. After all, I was free. I had a new job, plenty of free time and a diploma newly framed above my closet door. By the standards of my fellow Americans, I had “arrived.” I had no logical reason to be unhappy.
Deep down, I knew that while this was the life imagined by many of my peers, this was not the life created for me. That same restlessness that lead me to daily car-crying rituals lead me to quit my job, fundraise $17,000 and spend one year living out of a backpack while volunteering in places like Greek refugee camps and impoverished villages in Central Africa.
Fear is the enemy, yes. But fear can also be a compass. If you are feeling the weight of the human condition on your heart, not just your mind, then I encourage you to press into that burden. It could be the very thing that pushes you into the arms of your Calling.
At times, a catalyst in discovering inner peace isn’t the act of resisting the fear and chaos around you—it’s looking it in the eye, and saying, “It ends with me.”
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