Are we Getting Better or Just Becoming Bitter?

Typos aside, the comments posted on Facebook alone would lead one to think we’re devolving at a rapid clip. But is that really true? Are we becoming worse instead of becoming more advanced, more evolved, more mature? Are we getting any better, or is it all just making us bitter?

For that matter, what does “better” even look like? Will better happen all by itself, especially if we hope for it hard enough? In fact, on this, the Guide is clear: if we hope to move the meter, we are going to need to do some work.

In the lecture titled “Be in the World but not of the World,” the Guide spoke about how doing nothing is a more serious problem than being active in the wrong way. From Gems, Chapter 9: Why Lazy is the Worst Way to Be:

“So here’s something interesting to ponder: the active principle in distortion—as murderous and harmful as it might be—is never able to cause as much damage as the receptive, passive principle in distortion…So the lowliest attribute on the bad-ways-to-be scale of humanity is not to be hateful, it is to be lazy…

Some of us believe that to be lazy is to be restful and that to be active is to be exhausted. On this, we’ve got our wires crossed…It’s in the active motion that we build and create, change and grow. As we adjust to this movement, we find it enjoyable and relaxing…

The void is totally stagnant and inert; it needs the enlivening power of the spirit to penetrate it, and this can’t be achieved by holding back…On a spiritual path of self-confrontation and self-discovery, effort will be required. We need to push through the inertia that wants to keep us in resistance to our own growth process. We must actively confront the exact nature of our laziness, and more importantly, see how we rationalize it in order to keep on indulging it…”

In The Pain of Injustice, the Guide goes to the root of the problem, pointing out that everything that happens in the macrocosm is a reflection of what happens inside us, in the microcosm. And as we know, the inner work is where we must focus.

In fact, the more we do our inner work, the more we will see how painful out-picturings are really just an opportunity for us to see what’s happening inside the psyches of everyone else. And lately, we’re getting a bird’s eye view of the truth: it ain’t always pretty.

The big question is, can we look reality in the eye and not flinch? Can we see what’s being illuminated in the world around us and hold onto compassion, while not getting lost in feeling helpless and hopeless?

We have to See It to Address It

Along these lines, the Guide says over and over that we need to watch for the tendency to become aware of an unattractive aspect of our Lower Self, which is a necessary step in doing the work of healing, and then turn around and beat ourselves up over what we have found.

In some ways, he says, as we start on a spiritual path, it will seem as though we are getting worse. We will start to see aspects of ourselves we were blind to before. This is, by nature, part of the process of getting better.

What happens in the microcosm is what happens in the macrocosm, so what applies to our personal work applies to society. As such, I’m not sure things are worse today than in the past. Yes, the Lower Self is perhaps more obvious of late—it seems to be showing its hiney on a regular basis—but seeing it isn’t the problem. On the contrary, this is an exciting indication that we are collectively working towards new solutions. Look at the progress made in addressing maltreatment of women by the ugliness that has come into the light.

It’s like when the Guide says that becoming an atheist is a promising step on a spiritual path. We turn away from religion, no longer accepting the idea that God is outside of us or that we need someone else to pray for us. Then we hang out for a time as an atheist before finding a more true path where we find our real self and discover that, son of a gun, God lives within us. Then we might even return to church, but from a very different place.

Collectively, we need to co-create better ways of governing ourselves.

So in some way, the country is in that midpoint, if you will, of no longer believing the old way works or is right—which certainly feels true—but we haven’t yet landed on a new modality. Collectively, we need to co-create better ways of governing ourselves. But that’s not going to happen if we slide into laziness and apathy.

Those who have the ability to lead need to listen to the call to step up. People like Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton are shining a light on the need for us to support the families being torn apart along the border. They are raising money to help hire attorneys. I hope more heart-centered grassroots leadership like this will continue to emerge.

But if people spring into action with tension and distorted ideas that are the other side of the pendulum, their comments will not be heard. They will only add to the stream of bitterness. So it’s critical we hold the tricky place of relaxation within our mobility, with the aim of blending self-responsibility with compassion.

Capitalistic democracy asks for the highest level of responsibility from all of us, and therefore also has the biggest risk of going wonky. We are living in wonky.

I talked about this at length in the piece called The Almighty vs the Almighty Dollar. I particularly drew from the lecture about political systems (Pearls, Chapter 3: Exploring the Spiritual Nature of Political Systems), which also points up how our individual work is reflected in the form of government we have. Capitalistic democracy asks for the highest level of responsibility from all of us, and therefore also has the biggest risk of going wonky. We are living in wonky.

Our work today is a tall order. We must hold the world in a way that keeps our hearts and minds open, and at the same time, not let ourselves feel done-in by the pain of what we see. This isn’t easy; it is, perhaps, the PhD level of doing the work. But this is the work we all must do if we want to keep getting better.

—Jill Loree