Post-election Etiquette for the Spiritually Mature

Though it has surely not sounded this way throughout this disastrous election season, a new type of spiritual consciousness has been arising in our society in recent decades. This type of awareness goes beyond the teachings of our separate traditional belief systems whose founders saw a part of truth but were limited by a provincialism that blocked universal awareness. Advantages brought to us through technology, the internet and globalization factors call us to broader, more comprehensive understandings. The type of spiritual awareness that is arising now views our religious traditions as “vessels of the universal” to quote James Fowler, the father of spiritual development theory. This means each of our religious institutions carries a part of truth but fails to recognize the bigger spiritual picture that can be gleaned from a comparative study of all religions.

The new consciousness that is arising benefits from such comparison and allows us to eke out a set of values that are common to the most advanced levels in every form of spirituality. In this sense, the term spiritual maturity denotes people who have espoused universal values in their deepest sense. Those using the term spiritual maturity to refer to becoming more attached to one particular religion are talking about something far less universally applicable.

Because the 2016 US presidential election season has been so ruinous, Americans are going to need some tools to deal with the results that will be known less than 36 hours from now. Several values from the new consciousness may be of assistance, namely compassion, acceptance, both/and thinking and universality. We can each figure out which value will be of most help depending on what results come through in the next few hours.

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If your candidate won, the value you will want to apply is compassion.

Do not gloat. Even though you may be pleased, realize there are many people whose worldview has been shattered. The divisive rhetoric that has taken hold in 2016 has made our choice of president seem a matter of life and death. Those who feel they have “lost” will feel desperate and devoid of hope.

Reach out in kindness to those on the other side. Unless we want to experience a dismal society, possibly to include rioting and violence, we need to find a way to support those from the other side as fellow Americans. These people will have to deal without something they thought they were being promised. Rather than gloating, a spiritually mature person (defined as one who can perceive viewpoints outside their own) will seek to understand the worldview of those who supported the losing candidate. What disappointments and fears made them deposit their hopes with that candidate? They will ask themselves “What can I do to ease the fears of those on the other side?” “How can I connect with them?” Where can I find any commonality with them, and how can I express it?”

Seek personally to be an example of the goodness in people of your political leaning. Live in understanding and kindness such that those on the losing side cannot possibly fear and hate everyone who thinks like you.

Remember: compassion.

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If your candidate lost, the value you will want to apply is acceptance.

Our dominant societal messages throughout this election season have encouraged a rigid and fragile approach to life’s hardships. Despite the fact that every mature adult knows better results can be had in life through a cooperative “give and take” approach, on our political scene “divide and conquer” has been the order of the day. Divisive forces have sought to demonize the opposing candidate, to inspire hate and fear where perhaps less strident assessments would have brought us closer to the truth.

Rather than break down when their world seems to be falling apart, spiritual masters have developed the ability to find a silver lining in every cloud. They look for hopeful ways to interpret each and every misfortune that comes their way. They appreciate the learning opportunity in every adversity. I know it will be difficult, but everyone on the losing side would do well to develop some degree of the acceptance exemplified by spiritual masters.

Try to understand what it was that a majority of people saw in the winning candidate. What caused them to vote for him or her? Is there something you can learn from that, something to which you may have been blinded by the divisive rhetoric of the political campaigns?

Seek something in the winning candidate’s message that you can respect, and try to support that.

Do not obstruct (and do not support any politician’s attempt to obstruct) the efforts of the winning candidate just to make them look bad. Spiritual maturity calls us to recognize that anything anyone does against someone else harms the overall society in general. As we are each part of that same society, anything we do to harm someone else also brings down our own wellbeing. Conversely, anything done in service to someone else also benefits the whole of society, and in the long run benefits us as well.

Remember: acceptance.

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If you were one of the many who hated both candidates: We don’t have a good word for this value in our society, but it has to do with complex reasoning ability. The complaint that our dominant societal messages have been “dumbed down” does not begin to do the concept justice. What is in play here is that humans are capable of very complex reasoning styles. Our reality is far more complex than what might fit neatly into either-or categories. But various forces have been trying to control us – our purchasing habits, our values, our voting choices – by presenting life’s most complex issues in simplistic black-and-white terms. Rather than encourage us to consider issues in their full complexity, controlling forces have reduced our reality to what can fit into a simplistic slogan or quick sound bite. Along the same lines, people are complex as well. Almost no one is all good or all bad. The forces that presented our two candidates in simplistic terms did no one any favors and presented only a very limited part of the truth.

Recognize the motives behind the forces in our society that pitted our two candidates up against each other in such a starkly black and white way. Why was each candidate viciously demonized by the other side? In what ways has the truth on either side been distorted?

Admit that each candidate most likely does have something valuable to offer, while at the same time recognizing each one as deeply flawed - sort of just like all the rest of us. So whoever won will contribute something to our society and each will be limited by some less developed aspect of their personality.

Realize that while you may not like the particular human that won the race, he or she is neither all good nor all bad. He or she will contribute something positive.

Remember both/and thinking respects reality better than either/or thinking.

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No matter who you supported, remember that despair, fear, hate and divisiveness are values of spiritual poverty. We as a nation need to look for opportunities to elevate our dominant societal messages above that level. As one of the most fortunate nations in the world we have little excuse for holding ourselves in mindsets of spiritual poverty. We owe it to the universe to live in gratitude for our gifts. Love, connectedness, inclusiveness and courage are values of spiritually rich. Let’s rise above the spiritual poverty to which we have been subjected through this disastrous election season and seek out ways to elevate the American message to one of courage, unity, and love.

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