In the face of the shock, fear, disorientation, PTSD-type symptoms, sleep disturbances, and physical manifestations many of my friends and I have been experiencing following our recent election, I have needed to spend time in sacred silence … a time apart for reflection. During this time I have been strengthened by encounters with strong souls who have the leadership qualities I admire. These are the people who have come my way through film, literature, and television. I will continue being on the lookout for more of these massive characters because they give me hope and help me transcend my shock and fear. I pray that this blog post contributes to the strengthening of the souls of all who read it.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~Khalil Gibran
In the face of the election of a man who has threatened to use the nuclear option, has little-to-no impulse control, and who will have access to nuclear codes, I am
Inspired by Courage
Friday evening following the election, friends loaned me a DVD of a documentary about courageous women from Libera engaging in peaceful protests for peace: Pray the Devil Back to Hell. According to the filmmaker, she had difficulty finding footage of the original events because journalists perceived these women as “a pathetic-looking group” that didn’t warrant their attention. This “pathetic-looking group of women” took down a violent dictator without firing a shot and brought peace to their country.
Their leader, Leymah Gbowee, hadn’t led an exemplary life and didn’t think herself worthy of directing this peace movement. The women reminded her of the failings of Biblical leaders who grew into their greatness and insisted she had the qualities to lead them. She grew in her courage to speak truth to power and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for providing leadership for the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. The courage of these women inspires me and gives me hope.
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In the face of the election of a man who displays blatant disrespect for and abuse of women … a man who threatened to incarcerate a woman challenging his bid for election … who sees women who work outside the home as “a dangerous thing” … a man who mocks disabled people like my daughter … who tries to disempower others by calling them “losers,” I am
Inspired by Wisdom and Greatness
Then on Monday evening, I watched the 2013 movie, Mandela: Long Road to Freedom. I watched as several other men were imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island from 1964 to 1990 … twenty-six years of their lives. Those other men came out bitter and revengeful. Mandela came out angry and forgiving. I wondered how these men who went through the same prison experience came out so differently. I wish I could remember Mandela’s exact words to the white men in the government who had imprisoned him. His sentiments were that he didn’t want to become like them. He didn’t want to live in their hell … the one they created for themselves by victimizing people who they feared because of their difference … by imprisoning and trying to silence those struggling for basic human rights and freedom.
Mandela refused to take up arms, even though many wanted him to. He refused to stoop to the level of his captures. His Spirit could not be held captive. And because of that, he became one of history’s greatest leaders. He tackled issues related to institutional racism and ended the practice of violent racial segregation in his country. He advocated for racial reconciliation and developed methods to achieve it that are practiced even today.
“There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” ~Dostoevski
Then I remembered having read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. He chose how he would respond to being imprisoned in Auschwitz. While his outer life was being ravaged by the infliction of hate and cruelty, he developed a rich inner life focused on love and beauty. Inspired by those martyrs he witnessed in the camp whose inner freedom was not lost when they suffered and died, he chose spiritual freedom and dignity.
Mandela and Frankl made use of the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation afforded them. They chose to be worthy of their suffering. They are examples of true winners. These great men inspire me and give me hope.
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In the face of the election of a man who has so much difficulty saying, “I’m sorry,” I am
Inspired by Authentic Connection
“Err in the direction of connection. We long to know each other soul to soul.” ~Elizabeth Lesser
Elizabeth Lesser, one of four sisters, was a perfect match to serve as the bone marrow transplant donor for her sister with lymphoma. Elizabeth describes herself as the “woo-woo” person in the family. And so her sister, a nurse practitioner with a scientific mindset, was surprised that Elizabeth was her perfect match. However, she had lymphoma and time was of the essence, so she was willing to risk trying Elizabeth’s “woo-woo” suggestion. Elizabeth wanted to give the bone marrow cells the best chance at healing her sister and believed that the unforgiven, broken, unexplored places in their relationship could weaken their effectiveness. She asked her sister to enter into a process of healing their negative assumptions about each other, the assumptions that had calcified into disconnecting behavior.
In her memoir, Marrow: A Love Story, Elizabeth describes what she calls the work of a lifetime … finding the balance between loving yourself and another well. Her book is one of the next on my list. I heard her describe the journey she and her sister embarked on — a journey of finding that balance in their relationship. While Elizabeth acknowledges that not everyone is safe to be this vulnerable with, she and her sister took the risk. They didn’t have time to waste, so they plunged in responding to the question, “How did I hurt you?” They listened deeply without their usual defenses and assumptions. Then they asked, “Will you forgive me?” They did this until there was nothing left between them but love.
Elizabeth’s sister described the following year as the best year of her life. Even though it was filled with pain and fear, she had never felt more clearly herself. She had come home to herself. Elizabeth learned a valuable lesson, too. She learned that she didn’t have to be a perfect person to be just the right person for her sister at this crucial moment in her life. Elizabeth said she felt more “at one” with her sister than with anyone else … the great mystery of knowing themselves in their grand simplicity when two “enoughnesses” meet.
Elizabeth’s earlier book, Broken Open, inspired me during a time of struggle in my life and I had the opportunity to tell her that when I met her while attending classes at Omega, the life-long learning institute she co-founded. I consider her one of my spiritual teachers.
Elizabeth is a woman who, having tasted the dignity and goodness of her own soul, sees and respects the dignity of others. She inspires me and gives me hope.
“Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts …” I Corinthians 14:1
It would mean a lot to me if you shared in the comments section of this blog or on Facebook:
who inspires you
how they inspire you
and how their inspiration contributes to you.