by Troy Chapman
(published March 05)
One of the most powerful and empowering insights on my journey back from spiritual insanity some 20 years ago came in the form of seven little words: It doesn't have to be this way.
I was living a life of inner misery and outer destructiveness and I understood very little about how or why this pattern continued to unfold in my life. By its very nature, dysfunctional thinking and behavior is unconscious and this unconsciousness allows it to continue unquestioned. During that time it never even occurred to me to question the way I was living. I didn't think about alternatives of options because for me they didn't exist.
The first cracking of this darkness was the above insight. It doesn't have to be this way. It doesn't have to be this way!
It shook my spirit and hope was loosed like rain on drought stricken land. Everything that I've experienced and accomplished since then — the waking up, healing, and transformation — has hinged on these seven little words. Each time I was stuck or began losing my faith or my ability to see where to go next I returned to this truth as the one sure thing I could count on. Whatever was going on, wherever my life was at the moment, I knew it could change because possibility is truly infinite.
Over time I began to look at the world with this same truth in mind. One of the most powerful forces upholding insanity and darkness in our world is inertia. And inertia comes from inside each of us. It comes from the belief that things are too big to be moved or too settled to be unsettled by little old me or even a bunch of little old me's.
But it's not true. A huge proportion of reality — especially human reality — is held together by our complicity. As soon as one of us begins to say "no" — whether to something in our personal lives or something in our social lives — we have just unleashed the end of that thing.
All innovation and progress comes from this little soul-spark despite the fact that it's almost always overlooked in the retelling. Long before Abe Lincoln and the Civil War someone looked at slavery and said "no." Was it a slave or someone looking in from outside while listening to their own conscience? We don't know. Likely it was several somebodies but it most certainly happened.
Long before the suffrage movement some woman said "no" to second class citizenship; long before unions and the worker's movement some worker said "no" in his or her own spirit to the company as god... and on it goes through the whole history of spiritual progress.
But before we can ever arrive at the courage to say "no" we have to first see: It doesn't have to be this way. When I look around at my fellow prisoners and people outside, the first thing I see is a lot of goodness. The world is full of good people who long for justice, peace, decency, hope, and joy for themselves and others.
Yet, the very next thing I see in too many people is defeatism. Christians tell me, "There will always be poverty and injustice." Prisoners tell me, "The system will never change." People outside tell me, "I wish my life was better and I could contribute more to a better world," yet many do little to act on this wish, telling me that they've bought into the "resistance is futile" message of our culture.
But to all of this I say "no" and I call you to say it too. The ability to recognize and love goodness (i.e., consciousness) is a gift. But it's a gift that comes with the responsibility to act on what we see. To stop counting the odds of winning, to stop listening to any voice that says our deepest truths and longings are pointless. They're not pointless — they are invitations from the universe to come and guide the human family through its next step. They are labor pains calling for midwives to come and assist in the birth of whatever light lies waiting in God's womb at this moment.
To believe, really believe, that things don't have to be the way they are, that we can heal our brokenness, learn to love again, and give birth to truly new ways of being is an enormous source of power. It unleashes something unstoppable in us.
Whatever you're dealing with in your own life, whatever you see in our society that's contrary to life, don't be overwhelmed by it and don't give in to pessimism. All over the world people are saying no to these things and trying to bring solutions into focus by thinking, praying, and talking to one another. This is the real "faith community" of earth and we're all part of it.
It's so important to sustain our belief because this belief is a constant pressure on the present ills of our world and a steady call to new things. It really doesn't have to be the way it is, and don't let anyone tell you different.