OPINION – Two record-breaking hurricanes, widespread wildfires and a huge earthquake off the coast of Mexico have managed to shift our attention away from pure politics…for the moment.
Could it be that hard times have the effect of helping us see beyond some of our self-imposed blinders?
It’s been some time since I’ve seen so many expressions of concern and support publicly offered for those affected by circumstances beyond their control. This outpouring of encouragement is extending to both family and strangers who are in harm’s way.
As devastating as natural these disasters can be, it’s somewhat encouraging to see the general shift in awareness that has taken place as a result. Anything that distracts us from the kind of petty squabbling and wrangling for power that typically dominates our news cycle is a welcome relief.
Instead of focusing our time and energy on being angry with the right people, we’re being reminded that the most important things in life have less to do with politics and more to do with looking out for one another.
It seems odd that it takes being faced with life and death situations or the potential loss of one’s earthly possessions to make us understand this. Is it possible that we’ve allowed ourselves to become so acclimated to artificial strife that we consider it normal and prioritize our lives accordingly?
It’s shamefully easy to view others as objects rather than as human beings with the same intrinsic worth that we ourselves possess.
This kind of selective blindness isn’t limited to how we tend to treat or view our perceived political opponents.
It can take surprisingly simple forms that we wouldn’t expect.
For instance, the first time one of my small children spilled a full glass of milk on the new couch, I was frustrated and angry out loud. Looking back on the incident, I clearly made a bigger deal out of spilled milk than the situation warranted. It sure seemed important at the time.
It was only after years of raising our small kids and living through the attendant spills and messes that I came to realize the couch wouldn’t have stayed new forever, but my harsh words could easily leave permanent scars.
Now that my older kids are reaching the threshold of parenthood, I sincerely hope they’ve learned from my mistakes and won’t prioritize mere possessions over the irreplaceable people in their lives.
Large and small mistakes and misunderstandings can lead to rifts that divide families for generations. This is particularly true when adult family members choose to dig in like they were defending Iwo Jima.
We all know individuals and families who remain estranged and bitter toward one another for reasons they may not even clearly remember. Once our focus becomes set on winning – at any cost – even loved ones can come to be viewed as objects of inconvenience.
Few things require more strength and courage than finding the humility to be the first to offer an apology or to forgive another person’s wrongdoing.
Obviously, this is easier said than done, especially if we are convinced that we did nothing wrong. Contrary to the vengeance-is-mine mentality that holds sway over so many today, the person who is willing to humble himself or herself to seek reconciliation is not acting as a doormat.
They are showing wisdom and foresight by not allowing a temporary disagreement to become a permanent chasm separating them from one another. Yes, pride makes a powerful argument that being right is enough.
To our sorrow, what we too often find is that the time for reconciliation runs out before our pride eventually recedes. For every person who goes to his grave with the proud certainty he was right, there are many more who find themselves carrying lifelong regrets for holding on to animosity that changed nothing.
The clarity that accompanies difficult or life-threatening situations is a powerful remedy to the stubbornness we acquire when times are good and life is easy.
I’m certainly not wishing for more widespread disasters to help us remember how to be humble. I do, however, think we’d see a noticeable improvement in our own lives if we could humble ourselves while things are going well.
This isn’t something that can be accomplished with a mass movement throughout society. It has to be consciously chosen at an individual level.
This means that, at some level, we each should be giving some serious thought to what it means to be the best version of ourselves. There is no magical formula by which this happens in an instant.
It requires a willingness to put in the sustained effort to know who you are and what you stand for. After all, it’s pretty hard to care about others when you don’t understand your own worth.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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