A Thanksgiving prayer

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/11/22/a-thanksgiving-prayer/

If you spend any time on social media, it is easy to see the divisions in our country, in our communities, in our families.   Although every four years, emotions run high and partisan tempers flare, this year did seem different.   I have had good friends literally suffer physically from their profound psychic stress at the outcome of the presidential election. 

It is tempting to chuckle at the seemingly overwrought suffering of these “snowflakes” (many of whom are quite well-off from a financial perspective), whose Facebook postings in the wake of the election alternated between angry, despondent, and apocalyptic.  But their pain is real.   And yet, it is hard to begrudge the victors, many of whom had their sanity, morality, and intelligence questioned, their “I told you so” moment and social media victory lap. 

As one who knew early on that I would not support either major party candidate, maybe I have had more time to digest the fact that I would have concerns regardless of the outcome.  But it seems to me that both sides of the political divide could use the holiday week to step back, take a deep breath, and gain some perspective.

Talk to your elders about their life, what they found important, and what brought them joy.   It is highly unlikely that you will hear, “my life was perfect until that bastard Ike came into office!” or “six of us lived in public housing until Kennedy won, and then we moved to Weston.”

What you are more likely to hear is that personal relationships, not political outcomes, are the foundation of the joy that they have experienced, and that the loss of personal relationships are the source of whatever regret and lingering sadness they feel.  A close family, a long marriage, a rich faith life, a satisfying career – these things transcend politics, which wash away in time to become part of the canvas on which a person’s life is painted, while profound human relationships produce the colors, both bright and dark, that paint the scene.

And that is the opportunity that awaits us this Thanksgiving.  The people around your table will likely have more of an impact on your life – on your long-term happiness – than Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Jeff Sessions combined.

Politics is easy because it’s binary.  Your candidate must only be better than the other – his weaknesses, flaws, and character defects are explained and swept away in support of the “greater good” of political victory.   The opponent’s weaknesses are maximized and strengths ignored.  Politics is cast as good versus evil. 

Personal relationships are more complex and subtle.  Because we are all human, none of us is perfect.  Acknowledging our own vulnerability and accepting weakness and fault in others is the only way to personal connection.  But searching our own souls and acknowledging our own sin and need for redemption is hard. 

And that is why politics can be such a crutch.   It is, in the short term, more fun to be a morally superior Trevor Noah or Rush Limbaugh than it is to look closely at one’s own faults and weaknesses.  It is easier to say that those you don’t get along with are wrong than it is to acknowledge your own role in a fractured relationship.

But sustenance of lasting joy, rather than the sugar rush of political victory, is only possible by developing close connections to those around you.  Acknowledging you faults.  Accepting others as they are, not where you wish they would be. 

This task is, of course, impossible if we rely only on ourselves. Our ego and self-will are afraid to be honest, afraid to admit imperfection and sin, and afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help.

But by looking to God, we can gain the courage to be honest and vulnerable.  And by being honest and vulnerable we become ready to accept and serve others rather than judge them.  And true human bonds can form.

This Thursday, I will go to Mass Thanksgiving morning, as I do every year.  But this year, I will pray for the humility to acknowledge my own faults, the grace to accept others as they are, and the courage to be vulnerable and thus better able to connect with those I love. 

If it is God’s will that my prayer is granted, the impact on my life will be far greater than the results of any election.  

Robert N. Driscoll is a native of the Boston area who currently practices law in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this column are his own and not those of his firm. Nor are they the views of his wife, daughters, or greyhounds. Read his past columns here