The stress of the recent election season – no matter where you found yourself among the political aisles – seemed unprecedented in the number of people it affected to significant degrees. Throughout the fall and early winter, ICTG staff and volunteers repeatedly heard from ministry leaders and counselors about how "overwhelmed" their constituents were feeling about the potentials of winning or losing. Once November came and went, we heard repeatedly about the countless women feeling clinically depressed, refugees and non-US-citizens fearing for their lives and livelihoods, business owners desperately hoping tax law changes would come into effect quickly, unemployed workers aching for promised new jobs to appear, and everyone hoping for accessible medical care and mental health benefits (though differing on what they thought were the best next steps). We also saw how this election stirred up past and current feelings of trauma for many people – including past experiences of rape, sexual assualt, hate crimes, and poverty.
Among the many congregations and faith-based organizations who have constituents that span the political spectrum, many leaders have reached out to us for guidance in caring for their whole communities as we move into a new administration.
Here are several tips:
- Community – Groups that span the political spectrum often feel some pride in the fact they are an organization where a range of people feel a sense of belonging. If this is true for your organization, remind them of this fact verbally and in writing. Remind them of the blessing they are to one another, as they practice caring for another across political divides.
- Listening – Listening is encouraged so much. It's easy to skim past the word "listening" or roll one's eyes, saying, yeah, yeah, I know, I know. But don't brush past this tip too fast. Listening, especially in a time of great divides, can prove miraculous. When your neighbor feels like you truly hear their perspective and value them as a person, and value their well-being, they are more likely to hear your perspective and want to work with you to seek solutions together. If your neighbor expresses anger, they likely do not feel you truly have heard their perspective or value their well-being. Encourage your congregation or organization to practice listening in ways that help one another feel safe and appreciated.
- Peace – It's hard to imagine peace amid turmoil, but learning how to calm yourself and calm a group amid chaos and severe stress helps you and your neighbors think more clearly, act more kindly, and better seek justice for all. Even as waves of emotion roll through social media feeds, news programs, and public centers, you can practice being calm centers of the storms.
At ICTG we refer to these tips as the "3 C's": Calming, Communication, and Community. Over and over, these practices prove essential to countering stress and trauma impacts. You can learn more about why these practices are so important and how to incorporate them more into your congregation or ministry with the ICTG Resource Guides for General Ministry, Youth Ministry, and Spiritual Direction.