The desire to be better, to bring your best Self to a divided world is natural.
It’s what we want to do and what we are called to do. But in our divided world, it feels like we are challenged beyond human powers.
Open-mindedness, civility, and understanding in our highly imperfect world appear to be too difficult or requiring more than we have available.
The personal resources that help us create common ground and operate with civility seem out of reach by the overriding, more immediate need to defend our ideas and position.
It feels like life is asking us for everything because tribalism, accusing, and blaming is what we know; it’s our default position.
Following traditional society
Society is adept at teaching and learning career skills. But we stumble, change the subject, or grow silent when it comes to the things that will help us bring our best self, what matters most.
We revere the self-made professional who got into a top college, aced the interview, earned prestige and big dollars. But we are voiceless on how to cultivate a deep and profound Inner Self.
The result is an out of balance shallowness or a poverty of sorts — overdeveloped with career and status what is external, at the exclusion of deeper qualities like the ones talked about at a eulogy — faithfulness, humility, courage, kindness, honesty, and being impartial.
That’s the trouble. The only place we talk about possessing self-effacing virtues or what having a good heart looks like is at a funeral, and there it’s in hushed tones.
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”—Joseph Campbell
In the midst of challenge—division and chaos, there exists an unknown and untouched dimension of human life. It’s hidden and yet bigger than anything we can see or describe. It’s more than human and yet fully human.
Like great art, you know it when you see it. And we see it in the noblest and bravest among us.
You can trace a transformation and a flowering of this unseen dimension in their journals.
One of the bravest we know is Nelson Mandela.
His fiery temper was burning to change the minds and hearts of his oppressors. But he was labeled a militant and jailed.
Mandela discovered the hard truth that he couldn’t put out fires elsewhere if fire smoldered at home in his own heart.
In the quiet of his jail cell, he transformed himself from rebel to advocate and brought his wiser, kinder Self as he prepared to change the world.
Mandela was eventually elected president, and with abundant forgiveness, he invited his prison wardens to his inauguration.
Countless people have made the inner journey of transformation visible for us to follow
Anwar Sadat transformed to overlook past hostilities and Arab-Israeli hatreds and worked to create a new script for future generations.
Mahatma Gandhi had similarly transformed himself from firebrand to advocate
Maybe you have a powerful Human Spirit story in your family?
The point is we can all develop access to the Human Spirit and ignite a sea change with this previously unseen dimension.
There’s nothing wrong with working on degrees, certifications, and climbing the organizational chart. We need to do that.
But current chaos and division is pointing to the need to cultivate a deep and profound Inner Self.
It makes no difference if you call it Human Spirit, Soul, Human Nature, Essence, Inner Self, Heart, or Character.
The common thread in all of those terms points to qualities that exist deep in every Human Being no matter your culture, geography, heritage, or what beliefs you follow.
You could say we need to cross-train ourselves to meet the demands of an ever-changing, complex, civilized society.
Human Nature is loftier than we know
The noble ones made the labyrinth known. They showed us how, with skill, bitterness, and anger could be converted to advocacy. Forgiveness is also a skill. Love is a skill.
We are capable.
All we have to do is follow.
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