How Do We Heal After This Election?

November 08, 2016

Dr. Marc Pugliese, Saint Leo University, assistant professor of Theology and Religion,     provided some thoughts on healing after a contentious election season.

Marc _pugliese

By preaching, teaching, and exhorting the living out of the “Golden Rule” that is a principle of all major religious traditions, religious communities and people of faith can help overcome the negativities left in the wake of this year’s presidential election.

Religious communities have much to offer for the nurturing of healing and restoration of unity. All major religious traditions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—preach some form of the Golden Rule. We could never have enough of this principle, but a divided nation bruised and battered by the bitter battles leading up to Election Day will cry out for more of it. How can women and men of faith, religious communities and organizations apply the charity mandated by the Golden Rule in the wake of this most contentious election season?

Understand:  An old Hindu proverb says: “Only the fool becomes angry. The wise person understands.” All of us have experienced the pain of being misperceived. How have we felt when others have not truly understood where we stand, and why we stand there? How about when others have wrongly imputed bad motives to us? Would we like to be given the benefit of the doubt? Charity dictates that, instead of acting on the assumption that we already do, we should try to understand “what” and the “why” of the candidate and/or party we oppose. Instead of presuming ill motives we can realize that those with whom we disagree may very well be acting in good conscience and with goodwill. Thus honest efforts to try to see things from others’ perspectives, to “step into their shoes,” can both surprise us and diffuse our anger. Indeed a good test of “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” is how strong of a case we can make for a position held by those with whom we disagree.

Empathize:  All of us have experienced disappointment, anger, hurt, and even fear in various situations that we have considered a loss. How have we wanted to be treated at such times? Would facing triumphalism, gloating, condescension, and smugness have helped? Charity dictates that we act out of empathy for those whose candidate or party lost. It prescribes that if they act bitterly we do not retaliate but forgive.

Celebrate the Good:  No matter how negatively we view someone or something, there is always some good that we may find. Charity would dictate that, no matter how much we are opposed to a person or party, we seek and celebrate the good. Here it’s also good to keep in mind that, for all of their differences, the major political parties in the United States and their representatives have far more in common than some may realize or admit. Often many of the same overarching goals for the common good of our society are shared, even if they disagree on the means of attaining them.

Dr. Marc Pugliese is an assistant professor of Theology and Religion as Saint Leo University. In addition to teaching at Saint Leo, Pugliese teaches Master of Arts in Theology courses for deacon and lay ecclesial ministry formation in the Diocese of Richmond.