THIS PAST YEAR WAS A MIXED BAG for most of us. Mirroring our own personal highs and lows has been a larger world with both turbulence and progress. On the individual side, many of us will regret old resolutions unfulfilled and make new promises today in hopes of improving ourselves, and our circumstances. But what of the bigger problems of the world? We don’t even know where to begin in all the complexity.
Somewhere deep down must come the understanding that these two dimensions – personal and collective – are intertwined at the deepest of human levels. We lash out, at least in our minds, at perpetrators in Syria or North Korea, in politics or in finance, finding in such figures the reason for the world’s ills. It’s easy to reason that way, and we do it all the time.
In every place in the world where violence, corruption, racism or ignorance are prevalent, it all started because individuals shut down the lights in their heads and followed the attitudes of others. Untended and unchallenged, such illusions eventually broke out into the open simply because good people either didn’t show up or were too blinded themselves to spot their own culpability. We are all guilty of this and likely know it, but we fail to fully understand the effects. In priding ourselves that we are not “like them,” we find it easier to cast judgment or insult. The Internet is often full of good people whose bias becomes magnified or whose anger fuels divisions, and they are cheapened in the process.
There is a difference, a subtle distinction, between being not wrong and being right. By frequently justifying our lack of action wherever there is injustice and maintaining we would never be guilty of such things is a terrible way to begin the New Year. We must begin resolving to do what is right as opposed to what is the least risky.
Our willingness to judge or demean, especially on social media, has a dire human cost, whether or not we acknowledge it. Despite all the human suffering and isolation that yet remains in our world, we fail to understand that our own critical attitude, individually or collectively, in its own way only adds to an already difficult situation. It is relatively easy to point fingers, but another thing altogether to take risk and move more deeply into understanding.
Yes, the big players all have to do more, and quickly, but when they sense citizens themselves wish to play no part in the healing of the world, they find reason to delay action on everything from climate change to refugees, from inequality to gender bias. They will know we are truly serious when come together and shed the ignorance of our own judgments and then they will act.
Michael Hyatt recently said: “Don’t ask what is wrong, ask what is missing.” Perhaps we will discover that the missing ingredient might very well be ourselves. We all have judgments and critiques and they are useful to a point. But when they keep us from coming together to overcome our greatest challenges, then the key inhibitor to effective action might be within our own attitudes.
This is the first day of 2016, a new year with new opportunities. Given what we face at this present moment in history, what we need aren’t more New Year’s resolutions but personal willingness to take risks and make ourselves part of the conscious solutions as opposed to continually being part of the benign problems. Personal freedom is not merely the absence of responsibilities, but the ability to act on what our best for our own generation, even if it makes us vulnerable. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the presence of values worth sacrificing for.
For a good many Canadians there is a sense of newness, a freshness of ideas and possibilities, in the air and the hope that political parties will search for enough common ground upon which to build a coordinated response to our greatest challenges. But unless we as citizens make that happen among ourselves, politics will never rise to the challenge. Let’s stop looking for what’s wrong and search for what’s missing. Should we discover it, 2016 will no longer be a time of wishes delayed but of promises realized.
Our family leaves today for South Sudan for the official opening of a high school we have been building there for some time. We will also be overseeing the women’s and environmental programs we have been running in the region for a number of years. These blogs will continue later in January. In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone.