Cultivating Equanimity Among the Clamor

yosemite same·qua·nim·i·ty
noun – mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

clam·or
noun – a loud and confused noise, especially that of people shouting vehemently.

Having a hard time remaining calm and composed lately? Me too. Not only are Americans sharply divided on the issues of the day, but also we seem increasingly incapable of dispassionate discussion. Many using the sharpest and most divisive words themselves, vigorously attack even the most mildly expressed opinions with which they disagree. In the land of microagressions, all words are fighting words.

It’s a problem for me because (perhaps like you) I’ve got thoughts and opinions on a lot of things, including most all of the current hot-button issues. Unfortunately there seems to be little opportunity to express these opinions in a helpful and positive way. Way too many people are walking around (or posting on Facebook) with chips on their shoulders and to disagree is to knock them off. Frustrating? Sure, but what to do? How do I keep my equanimity?

The first important idea is humility, it’s not my place to correct everybody; God did not appoint me “America’s thought leader.” Also I’m trying to remember that my intrinsic worth, my inherent value as a person, is not determined by my popularity or the acceptance of my ideas by others (or for that matter, even the correctness of my thoughts). It’s okay for me to think and act differently from the crowd.

Next I ask myself two questions: Do I have an obligation to speak up? and, How likely is it that I can be helpful by expressing myself? We all have duties in life. It’s important to weigh in with our opinions where we have responsibility and/or authority. This may be in the performance of our jobs, as parents or spouses, as church members/elders, or many other instances in which our active participation is expected. In certain situations in my life, people are relying on me and I need to uphold my duty, even if it’s uncomfortable for me and them.

On the other hand, it’s not critical that I respond to every coworker’s comment in the breakroom about how he parents his children or friend’s post on Facebook about how she plans to vote. They have their responsibilities; I have mine. That’s where the second question, and some related ones, come in. Although I’m under no obligation to address their issue, could my thoughts be helpful to them? Are they looking for help, for outside ideas? Will they consider a new concept? And, can I express myself with love and avoid provoking a fight?

Tough questions. Sometimes I speak up, but a lot less than I used to when I was more emotionally invested in “being right.” Mostly I’m learning to keep my peace. I think a lot of people are going to need to learn that in the next few years. Maybe you’re one. If so, trust in God; think what you think; live how you live; pray for the world; and don’t go looking for fights, but speak up when duty requires or you think you can help.

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See also Alternatives to Outrage

Comments

  1. Deb Novak says:

    This is so true. I am learning to focus on what I can influence. You are so wise as usual. Trying to live not my circus, not my monkey.