Tell me, please, how I might deal with negative thoughts (hate, despair, feeling helpless) triggered by Russia’s war on Ukraine?
It is understandable to be upset and have strong, negative emotions, even anger, in association with events in Ukraine and similar events around the world or here at home. Crying out to God in anger over injustice and evil is not a sin! It is human not only to feel these emotions, but also to be at a loss in how to respond. Sometimes we even, wrongly, blame ourselves or feel guilty at our inability to do anything about them. Many of us feel that somehow “we should be doing more”. However, all we can do in life is what our strength, our situation, and our capacity allows us to do. Unfortunately, none of us can solve the world’s problems and most definitely none of us can change the hearts of evil people.
So is there anything we can do? Yes. We may feel helpless and inadequate, but in reality we are not. Firstly, if we see injustice, if we recognize evil DO CRY OUT TO GOD! The act of calling upon God in our helplessness, in our anger, in our despair has a long and sanctified history. There are many psalms of lament or declaration of despair. One of my favourites is Psalm 142; it begins: “I cry aloud to the LORD/ I lift my voice to the LORD for mercy/ I pour out my complaint before Him;/I reveal my trouble to Him. Just skim through the psalms and you quickly will recognize your emotions there. So let God know completely and without constraint what and how you are feeling; by reading the psalms, recognize that you are not alone and others, holy people, have responded to the evils of this world in the same way.
But you can do more: talk with others. Many are feeling the same emotions. In speaking with each other you will support each other and hopefully, sharing your experience with the psalms, you will help each other discover God’s spirit among you.
Find little things you can do alone and with others to demonstrate a response to evil in the world. This could mean something directly connected with (in this case) the war in Ukraine. For example, write a letter to the editor, write a letter to your MP expressing your feelings. Even if it does not get published or produce results you want, someone will read it and be influenced or moved to do more about the matter from their position. NEVER minimise the effect your example, words or letters can have. Any way in which you touch another person to recognize evil and to denounce injustice is an important step in making our world better for us and for future generations.
Support others who are also actively opposing evil. Financial assistance is not the only form of support. There is much that we can do without thinking about money. Often our most important contribution can be one of time and a smile. Many people who are actively involved in support/aid organizations are exhausted. Hearing that their efforts are appreciated can provide a huge boost. You can do that. We might think we can’t help an organization because they need hours of help and we only have half an hour this week—well that half hour could make a meaningful difference for someone, so offer to help. Don’t be offended if your offer is turned down. Your intention to help encourages others.
Doing something, anything, even something that seems inadequate to you is transforming your anger and despair into a constructive, loving action. Don’t be afraid to declare your anger, but don’t let it prevent you from seeing that you are that pebble in the water that produces ripples of goodness that spread out in all directions!