After the election, how do we move forward together? Jesuit founder offers a way

By David McCallum, S.J.

If you and I are on the same page these days, you may be wondering where we go from here, following the most contentious campaign season in memory, if not in our national history. This election, which divided the nation like no other, has left this country in turmoil. In this election season, many of us (including myself, at times) seem to have lost touch with the basic ethos of the Golden Rule, and, in the process, left behind our willingness to listen to one another, or to care and to empathize with those who think differently.

How do we begin the healing process, both individually as citizens and collectively as a nation? What steps can we take — within our own hearts and together with others — to begin to move beyond the angry rhetoric and vitriolic commentary that has characterized this campaign season? How can we move toward a more positive and constructive vision for a future that works for us all?

One exercise I find helpful for checking in with myself and for discerning next steps is the Examen, a daily reflective practice developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Developed nearly 500 years ago, the Examen directs us to reflect on our experiences in order to discover God’s presence, grow in self-awareness and inner freedom, and to discern a direction forward that is more optimal, more beneficial for all parties. In these unprecedented times, this practice can provide hope and remind us that what makes us truly great is our willingness to put others before ourselves, to serve a greater good. This very practical method of coming to awareness is a Christian version of mindfulness, and can be adapted for anyone with or without the explicit focus on God. We might take 15 or 20 minutes to follow five steps:

1. Become aware of God’s presence. It is important to remember that your life is a gift, and in the face of everything, it is good to be alive. We are all made in the image of God, who can be found in all things. Looking at others in this way provides us with a perspective that is meant to humanize everyone, recognizing that despite our difference we are sisters and brothers within a diverse human family.

Even in the darkest times, there are positives. Focus on them. Creative solutions often emerge from chaos.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Look at all we have to be grateful for including the things we might tend to take for granted. Despite its imperfections, we are part of a society and a nation that for more than 200 years has boldly stood not only for freedom and basic human rights, but also as a great experiment in pluralism, democracy and progress. And each of us has a role to play as a citizen of this nation, remembering that even as individuals, we also belong to one another.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. Many of us have let frustration and fear erode our courage and generosity. We know that anger and fear generally do not lead to good decisions in the long run. Rather, we seek to cultivate inner peace and a sense of well-being. We need to see one another anew and recognize in each other that we are all citizens of a nation that works best when we live together as one, indivisible and united. This requires empathy and compassion for people in their suffering, and openness to working with our differences.

4. Choose one thing each day and pray about it. This might sound simplistic, but even in the darkest times, there are positives. Focus on them. Creative solutions often emerge from chaos. Let us be patient and trust in our capacity to co-create a future that works for everyone’s thriving.

5. Look toward tomorrow. How might we rediscover our middle ground and our capacity for compromise as a sign of strength rather than weakness? Collaboration, conversation and consensus help us move forward together without collateral damage and a “winners vs. losers” mindset. What intentions do we want to set for how we show up tomorrow? Who do we want to be? What future do we want to create together?

St. Ignatius did not intend for the Examen to be used exclusively by Jesuits. This reflective practice can be used by all people of good will who wish for a better world. In light of the challenges before us, I hope we can, as a nation, pray the Examen at the conclusion of this election season, regardless of who is chosen to be the 45th president of the United States.

Originally posted November 08, 2016 on