“There are none so blind as those who will not see.” –Jonathan Swift, 1738
“There are none so blind as those who will not see that the faults of my candidate of choice pale in comparison to those of yours, and that your political party is corruption incarnate, and that a vote for your candidate is a vote for evil, and that no valid reason—not even one—exists to support your candidate.” –Facebook (et al), 2016
Twenty-one days remain until the U.S. Presidential election. Without diminishing the importance of voting or of thoughtful discourse beforehand, these are not the only avenues of change around these parts. A recent bit of well-articulated wisdom (erroneously attributed to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters) points out that arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people we have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control.
I tell my kids not to worry about other people’s faults, but let’s face it: dwelling on others’ shortcomings is much more satisfying than confronting my own. Another bit of wisdom (rightfully attributed to C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters), notes that we can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about ourselves that are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with us or worked in the same office.
What does advancing in personal virtue, character, and things we can control look like? Those who have ever lived in the same house or worked in the same office with me would probably be glad to sum up what this would look like for me specifically. Maybe I’ll gather the courage to ask them sometime, but meanwhile, here are 21 ideas that would be good companions to anyone’s political positions.
Anyone care to join me in tackling some of these?
- Donate food to a food pantry. Here’s a list of what is most useful.
- Forgive someone.
- Let your encouraging words and compliments outweigh your criticisms.
- Send a gas card to someone who travels regularly to doctor’s appointments and hospital visits.
- Help a foster family. (Yes, they receive reimbursement rates; no, these rates do not cover the expenses they incur.) Donate your kids’ outgrown clothes to a foster-care closet; bring the family a meal; babysit; invite the kids along with your family on an outing.
- Pay for an extracurricular activity for a kid who cannot afford one.
- Describe one positive trait of someone who is not your favorite person. Maybe describe three.
- Contribute to an ESL class: volunteer, provide transportation, donate books, bring supper.
- Be kinder than usual, one situation at a time.
- Be more patient than usual, one situation at a time.
- Give up your need to be right, one situation at a time.
- Be gentler than necessary, one situation at a time, even when you believe you have the right to be harsh. Especially when you believe you have the right to be harsh.
- Identify someone who does more than his or her share. Do something nice anonymously for that person.
- Write a note of appreciation to someone who is often taken for granted.
- Squelch gossip. Don’t start it, and don’t pass it on. Be slow to believe it. Challenge it when you hear it.
- Ponder a promise you’ve not yet kept. Fulfill that promise.
- If there’s something (recent or otherwise) for which you should apologize, do so.
- Rid yourself of sarcasm. (Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkazein, which literally means “to tear flesh like a dog.” Ouch.)
- Grant children the same basic dignity and respect that you grant adults.
- Give practical help to a single mother who chose to give birth despite challenges.
- Make a list of everyone who has helped you tug yourself up by your bootstraps. Include those who taught you what you have come to consider to be common knowledge and skills. Be thankful for these people. Tell them you are thankful.
Vote? Absolutely. Discuss the candidates and election process? Of course. But don’t limit yourself to those things.
“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” —Frederick Buechner
What would you add to this list?