I’m not sure what’s happening to us—to this collective of humans. The animosity and tension are palpable.
I don’t mean tension related to this upcoming election—this is perhaps the election of a lifetime, so it stands to reason that we are all on edge, to put it mildly. I mean in our daily human interactions—with our partners, our children, our co-workers… even with ourselves. We feel it on social media, when we pass people on the streets, in meetings. It’s everywhere.
The world just feels so unfriendly right now. And I think it has to do with fear because these are perilously scary times. We are afraid, and it shows.
Love and fear sit on opposite sides of the emotional spectrum; the opposite of love is fear—and fear is in rampant overdrive right now. Fear is rushing through our veins and pouring out of us.
It’s manifesting itself in the toxic ways we interact with each other. And it’s not working.
We need to right this ship, and quickly. It starts by giving each other just a little bit of gentleness.
Can we please just grant each other some grace?
Because this is not a drill. Collective trauma is not a buzzword. It is a very real, very consequential phenomenon and we are living it right now. To state that we are not going to make it without each other isn’t a nicety—it’s the evolutionary anthropological truth.
Humans need humans to survive—study after study finds that social support is one of the most important aspects of living a healthy life.
Well, our social support is abysmal right now.
This doesn’t mean we sit silently as injustices to happen—quite the opposite.
This also doesn’t mean that we don’t hold each other accountable.
And this certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t state our opinions, debate, stand up for ourselves, fight for what we believe in, and generally work to make the world better.
But my God, this isn’t working.
Have we completely lost our ability to empathize with other people?
Can we not understand how hard everyone has it right now?
Are we so fearful that we have forgotten how to love?
Think about how hard this must be for our children. Who were told one day that they couldn’t see their friends and grandparents again for an indefinitely long period of time.
Think about how hard this must be for teachers. Who are trying to keep a classroom of children safe while also managing the virtual learners, while also trying not to get sick themselves, and teach children math while they’re at it.
Think about how hard this must be for your employees. Who are doing everything they possibly can to meet deadlines, make clients happy, show up to work on time and have a positive attitude while they do it, while not having childcare or any semblance of control over their personal lives.
Think about how hard this must be for your boss. Who is trying to keep your company from going under, who stares at the ceiling at night worrying about how they are going to continue to pay the people who depend on them, while also attempting to handle their own work-life imbalance.
Think about how hard this must be for the restaurant server or grocery store employee who has no choice but to come to work every day under strenuous conditions, even though it means putting their (or their family’s) health in jeopardy.
Think about how hard this must be for health care workers. Who have witnessed the devastation of this pandemic firsthand. Who have held people as they died, told family members, “I’m sorry. We did everything we could… I’m sorry.” Who have sobbed in the hospital hallway because they don’t teach you how to self-heal your own trauma in medical and nursing school.
Think about how hard this must be for someone who has lost a loved one. Who watches people cavalierly dismiss the severity of a pandemic while their heart breaks as they yearn for closure that will never come because they didn’t even get to say goodbye.
Think about how hard this must be for people whose access to fundamental human rights is less than someone else’s because of the color of their skin, the country they were born in, the person they love or the religion they practice. Who only ask for the same simple rights that everyone else has… and are told simply, no.
Think about how hard this must be for your neighbor, your best friend, your ex-boyfriend… literally for every person in the world right now.
And think about how hard this must be for you. You, who is just trying to get through. Who wakes up every morning and wants so desperately just to have a good and easy day but finds that within hours you are being crushed, again, by the weight of the uncertainty, the hate, the gloom.
Think about how hard this must be for us. For all of us.
And then please, can we give each other some grace?
Before you bang out a comment on someone’s Facebook post.
Before you email your child’s teacher with some “feedback.”
Before you email your student’s parent with some “concerns about where their homework is.”
Before you snap at your partner or your child for having a raw emotion.
Before you tell your employee you’re disappointed in their performance.
Before you blame your co-worker for something you had a role in too.
Before you tell your boss that they’re expecting too much.
Before you tip poorly because it took a long time to get your margarita.
Before we are unkind, could we please just default to empathy?
Could we say things like yes, I understand, that sounds hard, thank you, have a seat, what can I do for you, have some pie, I’m here, I know, I care?
We are flailing right now. We are drowning in uncharted waters and the sea is deep and cold and the sky is dark and ominous and we have no guarantee that land is anywhere near.
So when you can, in the way that you can, throw out a life preserver.
To a stranger, to a loved one, to yourself.
Throw grace and gentleness, and yes, even love, like confetti.
We’re better than this, you and I. And we’re braver than this.
The opposite of fear is love. So please, can we stop being so afraid and just… love a little more?