There is a bleakness that exists within the human spirit. It is something so terrible, that none of us like to acknowledge its existence. A cold, terrible nothingness that creeps inside us. The shadow side of our human nature.
The woman who badmouths people behind their backs says, “At least I’m not as bad as the one who mistreats other people outright.”
The man who mistreats other people outright says, “At least I’m not as bad as people who abuse pets.”
The woman who abuses pets says, “I’m not as bad as people who physically hurt other people.”
The man who beats his wife and children says, “At least I’m not as bad as a murderer.”
The man who murders one person says, “I’m not as bad as the man who murders multiple people.”
And we shrug our shoulders at our “lesser” badness, and feel better. If just for the moment.
We have only two real ways to keep the shadows from overtaking us. We give in in bits and pieces, accepting the part rather than the whole. Every time we make a choice to willingly harm another person, we are choosing to walk in the shadows. We choose to cheat, to skirt around the rule of law. We dangle temptation on a string. We aim our bitter self-hatred toward others, forcing our whipping boy to endure the fury and pain we feel for ourselves. We lash out at the weak in our cowardice, then laugh as they fall.
Because it makes us feel better. If just for the moment.
It trades our helpessness for power, if just for the moment. It hides the shadows, that terrible, creeping emptiness, in our darkness. But only for the moment.
But there is another way to keep it from overtaking us.
We do not take the route of the cowardly, who give up and give in to their shadow self. Instead, we fill our lives with as much purpose and light as we can carry. We make the difficult choice to reach into the mire with both hands and help our fellow human beings. We share our bounty with those who have less. We seek out those who have become invisible, and we see them. We offer kindness and forgiveness, even to those who aim to do us wrong. We love.
And it does more than just make us feel better. It makes us better.
We fight the shadows with light, because light is the only weapon that can defeat them. It is not an easy route. We are all faced with moments of weakness, when it would be easier to give in. To slander. To do harm. To spread lies. To punish the weak simply because they are weaker to us. But to give in is to feed the shadows, until the emptiness grows and grows inside us.
I challenge you to examine your own spirit. What feeds you? What do you turn to to get you through the day? What lifts you, and breathes life into you? What gives you pause, and fills you with those moments when everything feels right, and you are in love with being alive? Are you fueled by your shadow self, seeking temporary ways to feel better? Or are you motivated by the light, seeking excellence, focused on becoming better?