This election week has been stressful, tense, and anxious. Regardless of one’s political affiliation or preferred candidate, it is a fact that the election has caused people to feel despair, fear, and uncertainty. Some of these feelings are negatively impacting our entire lives, including how we feel about others who do not share our political opinions. Georgetown leaders articulated recently that despite the unimaginable challenges facing our community, we as a university affirm that “during times of division and uncertainty, we are reminded that we find community in diversity and strength in our care for others.” Grounded in our Jesuit values and Ignatian spiritual tradition, the statement encouraged us, this week and in the times that follow, to speak our minds, share our views, and show respect for one another.
So, what from the Jesuit tradition offers us resources and support for navigating the tensions and challenging feelings arising because of this week’s election events? I would like to focus on three practices that might be helpful as we proceed from here. I am indebted to several sources for these ideas, including a webcast given this week by colleagues at our peer Jesuit institution Le Moyne College, “Ignatian Spirituality – Moving Forward Together,” and Fr. James Martin, a popular Jesuit, who provides timely ideas in this article, “Jesuit tools to help you survive the election (and its aftermath).”
Prayer, Meditation, and the Examen: In order to manage the strong emotions arising in us because of the election, we need to create space for a healthy inner life. This means finding intentional times and spaces to pause, reflect, and grow in awareness of how we are feeling. There are many ways to do this, but the practices of prayer, meditation, and the Ignatian Examen (which we’ve reviewed before in Mission in Motion) help us to manage strong emotions. These practices enable us to become more aware of our strong emotions, how they make us feel, and how they might be motivating our actions. Time in silence without the distractions and stimulations of technology, rooted in our own personal relationship with God or the Transcendent (however we want to name that), provides an opportunity to grow in both self-awareness and social awareness. In these times of heightened tension and strained relationships, such awareness and empathy are critical if we are to learn from one another and repair the divisions between us.
Self-Care and Self-Kindness: Ignatius was wise in his time period to note that a person cannot develop a healthy life of prayer or meditation without attending to the needs of the body. Living healthy, balanced lives means paying attention to our daily habits. This is a great time to renew healthy eating and sleeping, and other practices of self-development that bring us fulfillment and joy. SCS has been promoting a series of tips and suggestions for practicing self-care and self-kindness. For me, an especially important form of self-kindness is a walk around my neighborhood at lunch or time to be in nature with my family.
Connecting with Others: Our Jesuit values animate our works of service and our desire to use our gifts and talents to make the world a better place. At the heart of Ignatian spirituality is a commitment to listening; listening deeply to the needs and desires of others. Such active listening is a good first step to “bridging the gap,” as Fr. David McCallum and Karin Botto shared in their LeMoyne webcast this week, between our own perspective and that of others. We bring into such situations the Presupposition of Ignatian spirituality, which requires us to interpret another’s statement by giving the benefit of the doubt about the other’s good intentions. Such humility and empathy is not, however, an encouragement to keep silent about our values when we feel the need to call someone out for a false or harmful statement. Rather, the Ignatian Presupposition challenges us to see each person we encounter as a partner in the shared work of social transformation.
In these times, we can find a depth of support and resources in the Jesuit tradition that animates our life at Georgetown. I encourage you to check out this helpful list of mental health, wellness, and health care resources. You might also consider our SCS Daily Digital Meditations at 12 p.m. EST each day of the work week. (sign up here).