Can you say yes without saying no?

Revolutions that succeed are always for something rather than merely against this or that. But if we’re serious about what we’re for, we need to name what we’re willing to stand openly against. It’s not enough to say “Yes!” to things like love, truth, and justice without saying a loud, clear “No!” to their ruthless enemies, risking reprisals as we do.

— Parker Palmer, My Five New Year’s Revolutions

I’ve noticed a tendency in some spiritual circles, particularly of the New Age persuasion, to shy away from negativity and focus on light and love. We skim over emotions that feel bad, recoiling from anger and ignoring sadness. When someone experiences trauma, we concentrate on finding solutions or, at the very least, attempt to throw positive light on the situation with platitudes like, “It was God’s will,” or “this is all for the best.” This is the shadow side of certain spiritual paths, the shadow being that which we deny in ourselves, as individuals or collectively.

It is important to remember that rejection is different than denial. Rejection requires us to say “no,” openly, as Palmer says, to look at what we are against dead in the eye. We have to acknowledge the problem and the effect it has on us and then, only then, can we change. This is one reason that 12-Step programs are so effective. The very first tenet requires that an addict admit that they are, indeed, an addict. As one move through the program, they constantly take stock of wrongs they have committed, the effects those wrongs have had on loved ones, and then the addict works to make amends.

Acknowledging the shadow is the beginning of an important integration that leads to an empowered recovery. The addict has taken ownership of their shortcomings and can now transcend them. Otherwise, the root of the issue is going to continue to tag along, like a little puppy who hasn’t gotten enough attention.

Unfortunately, the problems that Parker names are much more concerning than an overactive pet. He names five issues we face right here in the good ol’ United States of America – white privilege, gun violence, “otherization” and islamophobia. These issues aren’t new; in fact, I believe that after having been ignored for so long, these shadows are barking louder and beginning to bite! Thankfully, I think that Parker’s blog and many that are written everyday are signs that the dark underbelly of our society is being exposed. Brave souls are calling out and shedding light upon the atrocities occurring in our very own backyards. This is the first step to our recovery.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
C.G. Jung



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