I used to feel responsible for saving the world from tragedy. It felt like everything rested on my shoulders, and even though I didn’t have a clear passion or idea of what life was calling me to do, I did the only thing I knew how — found a job as a journalist and vowed to write while giving voice to the voiceless.
This led to a life devoid of passion and joy. The intention was good, but overly influenced by unhealed emotional wounds. You see, I was living under the impression that I was responsible for the happiness of others. This life felt heavy and my heart sank in the feeling that I was responsible for something large that I couldn’t figure out.
I was working really hard, but over time, forgot what I was working for. Then I got cancer, and facing mortality helped me realize something very important: It’s not my job to save the world.
And it’s not your job to save the world, either. We didn’t create the world’s problems, and while we each must do our part to create a better life, not all of us are called to take serious action for every problem.
In fact, when you release the need to solve all the world’s tragedy, you create more energy to effect change in the areas where you do feel called to stand. For example, a big part of my life’s work is helping people feel comfortable with and learn from their emotions.
This topic won’t appear on the nightly news, but it’s a big, important issue that affects many people’s lives. So the way you help in the world might not be eradicating hunger or saving children from malaria — it might look smaller, but be no less significant to those lives that you’re affecting.
However, if grief over children dying from hunger paralyzes you and stops you from taking the actions that you’re called to do because they don’t seem big or important enough, then staying in that feeling of grief is not only detrimental to you, but also the world, because the world isn’t receiving your gifts.
The shadow side to wanting to change the world
Although the desire to change the world is admirable, it often comes not from love, but from a place of guilt and powerlessness. This powerlessness easily erupts into anger, causing more violence and hatred.
Anger isn’t always bad, but we must be conscious of how this strong emotion is used to effect change. Most people aren’t conscious enough to use anger in a healthy way, so it destroys them and possibly others, causing even more tragedy.
If you feel guilty, and use your guilt as a fuel for good work, the world may benefit, but you will always suffer. Often, it’s a painful sense of internal turmoil that leads people to fanatic attempts to change the world. You don’t feel you deserve to be happy, and so you put your energy into outer change all while ignoring your own heart’s call for attention.
In truth, outer healing resembles inner healing. Most change happens in small shifts over time. Nobody truly changes the whole world, but has a positive impact in one or more important areas. The world is a vast, complex place. It’s better to follow your passions, be grateful for what you have, and do your part to improve existence.
Do what you feel called to do, but don’t let your heart stay heavy for the things you cannot control. It can be hard to give yourself permission to feel light when the world is heavy, but this is your life and your choice. It’s okay to be happy.
If you feel called to take grand, positive action, by all means, do it. But don’t feel like you’re less of a person because you take smaller action. Even something so small as treating everyone you know with love and respect helps to change the world in its own way.
Why it’s important to let go
There is a higher power and nothing on this Earth happens without divine consent. If there’s one truth in this dualistic world it’s that nothing is all good or all bad.
Consider this: As much as people bemoan the state of the world, we’re actually doing pretty good. Rates of violent crime in the United States have been trending steadily downward, and in 2015, worldwide poverty rates fell below 10% of the global population for the first time in history.
Although the news media likes to make it seem like the sky never stops falling, the world is full of kind-hearted people.
I will also add that the world is full of unimaginable tragedy and amazing goodness that never make the news. The media controls what it does and doesn’t broadcast, and you have the power to decide the type of information you take in.
Outside healing mirrors inner healing
On a personal level, embracing suffering sends us searching for peace. Our pain ultimately fuels greater joy as we learn to release everything holding us back from experiencing our true nature as spiritual beings.
We must trust that on a global scale, the same is true. Every ounce of suffering, at the best, unifies humanity and helps us build a better world.
Historically, this has been the case: Despite the very real tragedy and poverty in the world, the world has never been more safe or prosperous than it is today, according to Public Radio International. Continue this positive trend by seeking remedies that create unity and not more division.
Heal your own heart so you can fulfill your destiny and create change in the way that you’re meant to.
Tips to stay sane while still caring:
* Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news.
The amount you can tolerate will vary depending on your needs and the type of news tragedy receiving coverage. Some events will naturally affect you more than others.
The dosage will also change depending on the time of your life. If you’re going through a tough time, stop watching the news. It’s okay. You’ll know when you’re ready to allow the world back into your heart.
Some people choose to not watch the news at all. I believe it’s our duty as world citizens to stay informed, but that is obviously a personal choice for you to make.
* The other person is you.
It’s good to have conversations and debates, but notice how they make you feel. My husband and I used to have dramatically different views and not be able to talk about current events without tension.
Recently, I’ve noticed that our views have become more similar. We’ve both likely shifted some of our beliefs through our conversations and when we can’t agree, we’re much more able to agree to not agree.
We’ve developed more compassion for each other’s views because we understand that each side has people and not mean robots behind it. This is a fundamental truth that people tend to forget when objectifying the other side.
Objectifying the other side and using that objectivity to create more division, even in the name of compassion and social change, is generally not a good thing.
* Be a free thinker.
With the recent coverage of racial tension in the U.S., a lot of people have taken the stance, “If you don’t agree with this perspective, you’re part of the problem.”
To me, that feels aggressive and only causes more division. We all do the best we can. We want life to be clear cut, but it rarely is.
Don’t change your beliefs based on fear — tune into your heart and see what you think about situations, regardless of what the world wants you to believe. Be a free thinker! That’s what the world needs. Then, have authentic conversations — even if they’re scary! — to share how you really think and feel, and listen as others do the same. Try to take nothing personally.
* Return to your center through meditation and yoga every day.
This is the most important thing. Stay connected to your truth, and share your heart. Resist the temptation to become righteous and share a piece of your mind.
This only creates more hate and tension. The world needs love. Try to understand where people are coming from. Don’t fall prey to the news media’s practiced ability to use tragedy to cause controversy and increased ratings.
Once you feel centered in your heart, then consider taking action if you desire. You don’t have to act on everything, but it’s good to take heart-centered action on those topics you feel most passionate about.
Share in the comments below — How do you stay centered when tragedy strikes?