“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m signing off for the next couple of weeks to spend time with my family and friends. My plan is to rest, play, and practice a lot of gratitude.
Nothing has been a greater gift to me than the three lessons I learned about joy and light from people I’ve interviewed who have spent time in sorrow and darkness. Even before Sandy Hook I was reflecting on these learnings as a way to stay centered during the holidays. They’re from Daring Greatly (p. 125). They feel very relevant today.
1. Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments.
We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary. Scarcity culture may keep us afraid of living small, ordinary lives but when you talk to people who have survived great losses it is clear that the most profound joy we experience is in those small moments that are so easy to overlook.
My intention: I’m going to slow down enough to recognize the joy in these moments.
2. Practice gratitude for what we have.
When I asked people who had survived tragedy how we can cultivate and show more compassion for people who are suffering, the answer was always the same: Don’t shrink away from the joy of your child because I’ve lost mine. Don’t take what you have for granted—celebrate it. Don’t apologize for your healthy parents or your great relationship. Be grateful and share your gratitude with others.
One quote that I heard over and over was simply: “When you honor what you have, you’re honoring what I’ve lost.”
My intention: To let the people I love know how grateful I am to have them in my life. I’m also joining the #26Acts movement started by Ann Curry. 26 random acts of kindness to honor the lives lost in Newton.
3. Don’t squander joy.
We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into “I better not let my guard down and feel too happy – that’s inviting disaster” we actually diminish our resilience.
Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen—and they do happen—we are stronger.
My intention: To lean into joy. To remember that traumatizing myself with too much news or letting my imagination run wild doesn’t create empathy – it generates fear and blame. I’ll try to remember that joy requires vulnerability and that if I want more joy (and I do) I need to stay openhearted.
I’m wishing all of you love and light this holiday season. Thank you for being a part of our wholehearted community. Thank you for sharing yourselves, your stories, and your light with us. I am grateful.