Despair is Not A Strategy – Wise Words for Troubled Times
by Carolyn Dallman Downes
In the last few months, many of my clients have expressed distress and anxiety over the new US administration, particularly those who are involved in some kind of activism. Abby Brockman suggests fifteen ways we can keep our spirits up and maintain hope when we are trying to effect change in our communities. In her article, I found this paragraph to be particularly helpful:
There is a difference between our actions being worthless and our actions not accomplishing what we hoped they would. Our actions, no matter how small, register in two ways: externally in the social world and internally towards the cultivation of our character. In the social world, our actions often have a delayed sense of cause-and-effect as they aggregate with the actions of others. This can fool us into thinking our actions failed to accomplish our goal- like flipping a light switch and the light not going on. But really it’s just that social change doesn’t work as quickly as electricity so it may take ‘the light’ a few months (or longer) to turn on. That said, even when it seems that our actions truly haven’t had the impact we had hoped for (in the time we hoped it would take), our efforts were not wasted if they contributed to our growth and the fortification and improvement of our moral personhood. The next time you call your legislators, tell yourself that you’re calling to influence their actions but also because you want to be the kind of person who gets involved/chooses action over despair/stands up for what you believe is right.
There are two things about this paragraph that I find helpful. One is the reminder that change always takes time, it’s gradual, and often there is one step backwards for every two steps forward. This is just a normal feature of human systems. But the other thing I find comforting is the notion that each step toward positive change makes us stronger. We may not succeed in our present endeavors, but we are making ourselves more able to meet future challenges and at the same time encouraging ourselves to become the kind of change we want to see. Please read the full article below and keep the faith!