Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Emotions Matter

In the times leading up to and immediately after a political election, emotions swirl about at every turn. Conversations seem more heated, people seem on edge, and in many cases, we show sides of ourselves normally kept under wraps. People who normally seem diplomatic, passive, or even spineless are suddenly revealed to be aggressive and emotionally invested.

[Below see me exhibiting emotion...with a massive beard.]

I've found that being attentive in these times is a valuable practice. We may feel awkward because of the heightened emotion, but we also experience ourselves and others in different and perhaps more authentic ways. A common mantra of the last week has been one of relief: I'm sure glad the election's over. I'm sure glad the election's over. I'm sure glad the election's over. But is this because after fulfilling our civic duties, we give ourselves permission to just go to sleep?
Perhaps we need to hold onto some of our election time passion. Now I admit that some turn completely pompous at election time. Some use it as an excuse to pick fights and sling mud around. I'm not advocating for these things.

What I do advocate for something particular which comes out of a climate in which we cannot help but feel something. Even the most raging of moderates have strong emotional responses either for or against the grossly exaggerated political language of election time and the reality is that citizens actually have something concrete to offer the process and the conversation. The combination of "state of emergency" rhetoric and an empowered people is explosive.

What I'm trying to do right now, and what I hope we will do together as a community and in the church, is to pay attention to those strong emotions we felt during this election. What made our blood boil? I think it's hugely important to talk through these things, because they say a lot about who we are as a person. Those things that hit our gut say more about our identity than the processed logic that often ends up coming out of our mouths after we've toned it down. What made your heart soar? What made you want to throw stuff at your TV?

Do we have safe places where we can be honest about these emotional responses? I'm not talking about places where everyone agrees with us, either. We need people willing to offer alternative interpretations of our emotional responses. If we do, I think we'll find that our common humanity is more common than we realize. Look behind our dogmatic interpretations and allegiances to the parties and the issues, and we find that we all have histories, relationships and experiences that made us who we are.

And in identifying the history and the experience which has made us so passionate, we just might be able to begin letting go of the idea that our particular vision of how to "fix it" is the only way to go. And maybe we'll come out of it with a greater understanding of our own identity, and who God has created us to be. I think it's a decent place to start.

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At 12:52 PM EST , Blogger Ingrid said...

Amen. Let's take civic duty beyond just emoting for the right team. That goes for both national and eternal citizenship.


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