Anger Divides, Fear Unites
Anger and fear are just emotions, like any other emotions- they are natural and common and don’t help or hurt anything by just being felt. It is how we respond to these emotions that helps or hurts ourselves or others. And COVID-19 really showed us how our responses to these emotions can divide or unite us. Having a pandemic come sweeping through the nation you call home is absolutely frightening.
Primitively, humans are wired to prioritize physical survival and when there is a global threat to this and so much unknown about it, of course there is going to be fear emanating within all of us; it is our nature. It is understandable for us to want control when so much feels outside of our control. Unfortunately, some of our ways of gaining a sense of control during COVID-19 were destructive to the goal of uniting people. We started pointing fingers, blaming one another for perceived ways we were handling the pandemic “wrong”. We judged each other, lectured each other, dismissed each other- rather than listening to each other and seeking understanding and compassion for the joint experience of fear that most of us were having.
The division extended into the political realm related to and not related to the pandemic. Topics of oppression and privilege took a front seat, as well. We were scared and we wanted control. We couldn’t get control from being able to fully understand, prevent, or eliminate COVID-19, so we instead tried to get it from turning against each other- dividing our country even more than it was already divided.
I want to acknowledge that there were also many ways that people helped each other and remained compassionate and loving during this time of intense fear, that happened too and all of those actions mattered for us to keep going day after day of isolation.
While it seemed as if some people were ruled by hate, judgment, and selfishness, they were actually being ruled by fear and a desire to protect the things and people they cherished. Expressing anger outwardly feels much more powerful and less vulnerable than expressing fear, that’s why we do it, but it doesn’t help in the long-term. There are billions of humans in this world- our significance is as a species, not as individuals. Change happens when we work together, not against each other. If we can listen with the compassion of knowing that we are all united by the joint experience of fear, we might be able to make movement toward impacting change on a large scale.
This will happen, however, on a small scale first. It starts with our every day conversations- compassion begets compassion and it grows from there. We may never know the true impact of these small scale actions, as it is often not measurable, but we can know that we contributed to less division and less hate- and that always matters. It is easy to think that change can only happen by people in authority implementing change, but ultimately these authority figures are just the recognizable faces of change, not the only ones making changes. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can’t impact change in this world. It is a chain effect and what you do absolutely matters. If one person can make a dent by doing something harmful, one person can also heal a dent by doing something helpful.
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