Observations from the Middle
The recent presidential election has provided me with a lot of opportunities for introspection and emotional integration. While most people in my circle view me as a liberal, the truth is that I really fall somewhere in the middle, embracing some aspects of libertarian-ism along with other aspects of progressive-ism. This has given me an interesting opportunity to observe both sides of the coin, so to speak.
The commonality that I see from both the right and the left (especially on the extreme ends of these paradigms) is the need to control others. We could go into specifics about how each group wants to exercise control, but this is not necessary. The main point is that each group needs to get more “members into the fold”. It needs everyone to agree and think alike in order to exercise power.
While common thinking extols the power in numbers, having everyone THINK alike is not what gives a group power. The power comes from the individual members of the group deciding to work together, despite their differences, to achieve a common goal (fodder for another post). Unfortunately, the common goal from both the right and the left is to create policies that make others do what the group wants.
On the surface, this can create the appearance of a practical conundrum. Don’t we need to MAKE people do stuff to achieve the “greater good”? Don’t we need to STOP other people from doing things that harm? Isn’t it our responsibility to make others do what we think is right?
The spiritual answer relieves our conundrum. We are only responsible for ourselves. We are only in control of how we respond to situations. That is it.
Not only do we not have control over others, it is morally wrong to attempt to exert control over another’s experience. We cannot make people do what we think is right. We cannot provide a proper experience for someone else. With that, we cannot keep someone from their own experience.
When we agree to not keep others from their experience, this goes for the “good” as well as the “bad”. We allow others to make mistakes, fail, and even “sin” as they choose to do so. We also allow others to stand on their own, take their own action, and make their own destiny. We do not stand in their way or keep them from opportunity even if we fear that it keeps us from ours. For when we fear that another’s success leads to our perceived loss, this is the indication that it is time for us to look inward at our own beliefs and perceptions of the world. Finally, when we accept our responsibility for our experience, we invite others to do the same.
This is not to say that we are cold to the struggles of others. When asked for help or guidance, we provide it (if we can) without expectation of the other person’s outcomes. We support others when they ask for solidarity. We express what we need and when listen when others express their needs. We work together in community as is appropriate for us and as we are called to do so. But it stops there.
Imagine what the world would look like if we were strong enough to stay out of each other’s way. If we were integrated enough to not feel the need to hurt or control others out of our own anger, fear, and sorrow. If we put all of our energy towards saving ourselves instead of co-dependently trying to save others.
I believe this is one of the keys to making the world a better place for all of us. How about you?