Kintsugi living in a broken world

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

A small globe of the earth being held in the palm of someone's hand
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As I listen to the news, it often feels like the whole world is falling apart.

Between natural disasters of all kinds that are massive in scale to mass murders to threats of war to terrorist threats to the ongoing reports of humans being awful to fellow humans in stories of murder, abuse, torture, robbery, and other general ugliness, there's more than enough brokenness to go around.

I find myself easily retreating into a space of fear and anger and hopelessness. And none of those inspire me to be my best in the ways I interact with others.

As I shrink into the smaller self that fear and outrage and hopelessness create, I find myself adding to the world's brokenness in my own small ways with unkind words (in person or on social media), dehumanizing thoughts about others, and the general stinginess that comes from thinking I need to protect my own interests first and foremost.

None of those things help. They don't help me, they don't help those around me, and they don't help the world at large.

So what does kintsugi living mean when faced with this much brokenness that I have so little power to heal?

I constantly come back to the story that Rev. Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers of the children's TV show) tells in The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world."

Those helpers are the kintsugi gold in the world's brokenness, and just like kintsugi living in my own life means choosing again and again and again to focus on healing, kintsugi living in a broken world means choosing again and again to focus on being a helper, on being a healing presence, on making the world better.

For me, that means paying careful attention to what I focus on. Instead of endlessly consuming whatever news is available, I intentionally seek out stories of helpers and positive contributions to inspire me to be similarly helpful.

It means actively paying attention to the thoughts and stories that form the internal backdrop of my days. Am I choosing stories of disaster, hopelessness, and outrage? Or am I choosing to focus on the contributions I can make to improving the world around me?

It means noticing when my triggers are activated and my fears are unleashed and dealing with addressing those fears and trigger points in myself instead of spewing the results of them toward others.

It means paying careful attention to what energy I'm putting out in the world around me. Do my words and actions work toward making the world a better place? Do they work toward influencing change in positive directions? Or am I just venting my fear and anger in ways that dehumanize those I disagree with?

It means seeking out ways to help even when my contributions are small and seem insignificant in the scope of the brokenness we're facing. That may mean contributing to rescue and relief efforts, it may mean being willing to listen and be present to someone who has been more directly impacted, or it may mean offering a smile or holding open a door for a stranger.

I don't have the power or resources to fix the world, but I can choose to be a positive presence in the small part of the world that is mine to influence. I have the power to choose to do my own work to be a helpful, healing, peaceful presence for those who my life touches.

If enough of us choose to live this way, these ripples of kindness and healing and peace have the potential to change the world in positive ways that are so much bigger than we are.

Living this way is harder than it sounds, and it's something I have to bring myself back to again and again. But if I don't work to create the kind of world I want to live in, who will?

Each of us has the choice minute by minute to be a part of the kintsugi gold in midst of the brokenness of this world or to be a part of its ongoing brokenness.

Which will you choose?


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