This advice was spoken by Father Daniel Berrigan, the peace activist and Jesuit priest, but could have been spoken by the Buddha. As such, it contains enormous wisdom and spiritual guidance in a tight, pithy package. I’m finding these words more relevant and meaningful than ever these days. Meditating on them in the context of the political situation here in the United States, post presidential election 2016, I find new meaning in this advice, and new inspiration.
Let me break this advice down to its two parts: right action and results.
Right action will be needed from us all in the coming months, and perhaps years. Each of us may define that somewhat differently. We may feel more motivated to protect children, or vulnerable individuals, or the environment, or we may feel drawn to more abstract but nonetheless important issues such as freedom of speech, or separation of church and state. Action may be a spontaneous gesture, or an ongoing commitment to donate money or time to a cause. However we choose to act, we must act in accordance with our values and deepest beliefs. If we do not, the wound to our self -integrity will be long in healing, and perhaps mortally severe. In times of societal upheaval, those who stand by their values and ethics stand to emerge with strength to move forward. Those who compromise may be forever weakened.
Results are dependent on many factors out of our control. This is no reason not to act, in fact, it should spur us all to act with greater conviction, as we do not know for sure how and where our actions will impact others; our actions can be felt in places and by people we had no idea we would reach. But focusing on results can drain energy and focus; create worry and distress that discourage us from continuing. We must cultivate the delicate but powerful balance of dedication without attachment, of caring without needing to control. Knowing we are not alone, and that our efforts together support and magnify their impact, we do what we can, and in this moment hold each other up.