People think politics is so ugly, and part of it is. But there is something else there too, when we allow it to unfold. Something noble and very meaningful. As someone who has been speaking to audiences consistently for thirty-five years, I have seen something wonderful happens when people sit together in a room and consider the most significant questions about their common existence.
My father was a lawyer, and he always said that you should speak to the smartest person on the jury. I have had the good fortune in my career of seeing people at their best— not necessarily when they were at their happiest, but when they were at their deepest and most real. Whether counseling a single person or a couple or talking to a large audience, I have been with people in that place—everyone knows it, we’ve all been there—where life is serious and hushed and true, even when painful. Gandhi said that “politics should be sacred,” and I agree. We should participate in politics with the same level of consciousness we bring to love and therapy, parenting and all of our most important and meaningful pursuits. We should bring all of ourselves to politics. We should bring our hearts and minds and deepest dedication to something bigger than ourselves. Politics is very, very serious business in a country as big and powerful as ours; when we get it right, it can be a beautiful thing, but when we get it wrong, it can be a terrible thing. And we are all responsible for that. With every election, with every campaign, we are deciding something extremely important. We are deciding what is possibly the fate of millions, the fate of the earth, even perhaps the fate of humanity. If that is not a sacred charge, I cannot imagine what is.
Americans are a good and decent people, no different than people anywhere else. Although fear and bigotry have been harnessed for political purposes, we have love and decency we can harness too. But first we must find and harness it within ourselves. We all have to look at ourselves and check our judgments at the door now. A smug, self-righteous, intolerant left-winger is no less dangerous to the emotional fabric of this nation than a smug, self-righteous, intolerant right-winger. A non-violent revolution begins with facing, and surrendering, the violence within ourselves.
What’s going to save this country is a massive revival of spirit among the American people. We must be willingness to love our country and to love each other. I’ve seen how the energy in a room can change profoundly when we drop into our hearts for a meaningful, sober, sincere conversation about things that matter most. The political atmosphere shifts when the spiritual atmosphere shifts, and that is as true among the masses as it is in a small room. On the level of the heart, there is no separation. There is only love. I have witnessed and experienced what happens when love has joined two people’s hearts together. I have also witnessed and experienced what happens when love has joined two thousand.
That is the kind of social movement that America needs now; not a community of hate but a community of love. All the great social justice movements in America’s history have been born out of religious and spiritual communities, because that which is truly spiritual takes love seriously. Abolition arose from the early Evangelicals and Quakers; the civil rights movement was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist preacher and leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Catholics and Jews and others have been profound supporters throughout our history of the causes that uplift humanity. Today’s religious and spiritual communities should not be standing on the periphery either, but rather we should be the biggest grownups in the room. We should address social, political, and economic issues from a higher level of consciousness. If you know how to heal one heart, then you’re the one who knows how to heal the world.
- Marianne Williamson