Last post I shared a Mussar practice to deal with political worry by taking action. This week we’ll tackle political worry head on, by focusing on the soul trait of Trust.
Trust is a very hard soul trait – so hard that many Mussar facilitators avoid it. I took the opposite approach, and include it early in my mussar book. Why? Because it is impactful. And because it is hard, we need more practice.
I am part of a Mussar Circle that is spending a year on the shadow side soul traits. After a summer hiatus, we met again, focusing on the soul trait of Worry.
Just what I need! Today’s political situation gives me plenty of reasons to worry. The divisiveness alone should worry people across the political spectrum. The traditional way to combat worry in Mussar is to practice Trust, as in Trust in God.
I was both drawn to and repelled by the following passage that we read in the group:
Trust in the Divine with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge the Divine, and the Divine shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
I was drawn to this in an aspirational way, and so wish that I could receive guidance and support to get through these turbulent times. And the “all your ways” is a theme that refers to the actions and decisions we make in everyday life, which I am totally into. At the same time my rational mind rebelled because I am not in the habit of blindly trusting that things will be ok.
We spent a lot of time in the Mussar circle discussing what the Divine means to us. Nina Piken gave me permission to share her conception of the Divine as a process of engagement, and she Trusts that process. Her framework helped crystalize what the passage above meant to me. Notice how it looks when I substitute “The Process” for “the Divine”
Trust in The Process with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge The Process, and The Process shall direct your paths.
Could The Process mean the political process too? I am struck by the convergence of the return of the Mussar circle focusing on worry at the very time my own political worries are starting to spike. And then Rabbi Rachel Adler referred to the Divine as a process on a Judaism Unbound Podcast I listened to the day after our group met. All of this brings to mind a Mussar practice for this week.
****Here’s the Mussar Practice***
Let the Process direct your path. If you are worried about the election, engage with the political process. In the 2016 election, too many people placed blind trust in the polls, which led to complacency. The political process means at minimum you should vote and encourage others to vote. You can also knock on doors, make phone calls, or contribute money.
Nina explained that the process represents in part self reflection. Am I making a knee-jerk reaction? Am I acting from my best self, or from a place of worry? A regular Mussar practice gives us a process to connect our actions to something beyond the surface, something higher or deeper. And we learn to Trust that process.
Trusting the political process keeps an eye on the big picture, and not to mistake today’s fight as a fight for all time. Trust reminds us that we are not alone, and that we have the resources to handle whatever happens.
We all have the ability to be a Mensch, even when it comes to the anger and frustration so many of us are feeling about the government, or the opposition. Taking action is what the political process is all about, and taking action is also what Mussar teaches us to do. There are no guarantees about the outcome, which is why we need to trust the political process like a mensch. Let’s fight the good fight with sound minds and hearts, from a place of strength and respect.
As Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” (Pirkei Avot 2:16).
Or to put it in a more modern context:
We shall overcome, some day.
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