Living on this planet at this time of crisis and change, it’s hard not feel a sense of pain and grief. But how often do we open ourselves up to this painful reality, to sit with those difficult emotions, instead of turning away and going back to business as usual?
“We are caught between two fears,” say Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone: “The fear that if we do nothing our world will fall into crisis and the fear of acknowledging how bad things are because of the fear it brings up.” So many of us deal with this conflict by trying to push the crisis out of view. But we aren’t really free of it; it’s just sitting there like a pit in our stomach. We may try to numb the pain, but it numbs the joy as well. Our energy starts to sag, and we feel less alive. And as we become dependent on the temporary escape provided the numbness, as a society we become unable to deal with the deepening crisis unfolding around us.
What if, rather than dragging us down into a bottomless pit of despair, getting in touch with that pain, that sadness, that anger, that fear, is in itself liberating? By honoring our emotions, we begin to transform them. We recognize that our sadness and grief are manifestations of our deep love for the world. We recognize that our anger arises from our passion for justice. And we can then begin to use those emotions in service to helping heal our world.
Matthew McHale works with the UU Environmental Justice Collaboratory, UU Ministry for Earth, and Allies for Racial Equity. Matthew is a recent graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry and lives in Oakland, CA.
Today’s practice is to answer the following open sentences through journaling and reflecting:
- "When I imagine the world we will leave our children, it looks like...."
- "One of my worst fears about the future is..."
- "The feelings about this that I carry around with me are..."
- "Ways I avoid these feelings are..."
- "Some ways I can use these feelings are..."
Today’s resource for deepening this message is the book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. McHale says: “Thanks to Joanna, whose grief work, as part of ‘the work that reconnects,’ has been transformative for my own justice work, and serves as significant inspiration for this reflection. More can be found atwww.joannamacy.net.”
Commit2Respond's Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.