At a dinner party I attended the other night a man was sharing a memory from 1960 when he was a young boy growing up in a small midwestern town. He told us how the Protestant and Catholic boys in his neighborhood, influenced by the behavior of the adults around them, would openly mock each other. Some days, they would even go as far as throwing rocks at each other, yelling insults like “Nixon lover” or “Kennedy lover.” Such was the emotional climate over the election of a Roman Catholic to the presidency.
Fast forward forty-eight years and now we have a similar dynamic between the left and the right, liberals and conservatives in our culture. During this election season that has just concluded, it’s not just boys this time, but adult men and women turning up the emotional volume as they hurl self-righteous insults at each other. In the spirit of our new president-elect’s campaign theme, I ask the question, “Can we put down our verbal rocks and come together for the higher good of our country, our communities, our schools, our armed forces and our families?” The answer of course is “Yes, we can.” Will we? Perhaps, but I sure hope so.
So what does all of this have to do with personal wellness? I believe that one of the essential qualities of emotional and spiritual wellness is the capacity to see and to celebrate the good in each and every person. Every person contains a “spark of divinity” as the Quakers say. No matter how I strongly I disagree with the position a person may take on the economy, the war, abortion or social justice issues, that person is much more important than their position. Mature, spirited discourse around differences of opinion will enhance our growth and our personal wellness. Immature rock throwing or name calling are signs of a lack of personal wellness. Like you, I am capable of both. I deeply regret some of the political emails I forwarded to friends in the last month because their sole intent was to make fun of a candidate and not to further meaningful dialogue on important issues. May we each of us seek to act out of our best selves as we work together to serve the higher Good that unites us all.
Couple, Family and Organizational Wellness
The quality of emotional and spiritual wellness in a couple, family, church or organization is highly correlated to its capacity to manage differences, especially differences that have a high degree of emotional energy. In families these could be issues like money, religion, parenting styles, politics and sexuality. In churches these could be issues like money, worship style (including music), stances on “hot-button” social issues and feelings about change in general.
Note that I said that wellness is correlated with the ability to “manage” differences. Signifiant differences within families or congregations are rarely resolved once and for all. If we were to leave to join a new family or congregations we would simply have a different set of differences to learn how to manage.
Taking responsibility for our own actions as described above, and focusing on the higher Good that truly unites us couples, families or congregations, will go a long way to improving the emotional and spiritual wellness of each and every one of us. I have found also that it even improves the physical wellness of my right arm, which always gets sore and stiff after too much rock throwing.