When It is Dark, Seek Out Beauty

Nell Edgington

These are really dark days. We are in midst of a global pandemic that shows no sign of weakening, while we simultaneously begin to reckon with centuries of racial violence and inequality. Emotions are running high. People are worn out. There is simply a pallor of exhaustion, hopelessness, overwhelm that pervades much of our world right now. I get it. I see it in my clients, and I feel it myself most days.

Except today because I woke up this morning determined to have a different day. I woke up resolved to reach for beauty wherever I can find it.

And there is beauty everywhere, you know.

Despite the fact that it feels very much like our world is imploding, it is not. In fact, some pretty amazing social change is happening (here and here for a start). And birds still sing every morning. In fact, those birds don’t care much about our very human struggles. And the sunlight still glistens through the trees on my morning walk.

I promise you, beauty still exists. But the trick is to seek it out.

I know that making that shift is so hard. The typical response of you selfless nonprofit leaders is to think, “If others are suffering, I have no right to take a break or feel joy.” And so many are suffering right now.

But the fact is that beauty and suffering exist all around us in equal measure. And when witnessing the suffering day after day drags you down, you can choose instead to see the beauty for a few minutes.

Because when you are worn down, depressed, or disillusioned, you are simply unable to create positive change to any situation. If your worldview is so dark, you have no hope of creating light for anyone else.

So your true power comes from deciding (yes, you can decide!) to seek out beauty. Because once you do, you somehow, miraculously start to feel just a little bit better. When you choose to get off of social media for a minute, get outside for a quick walk, reach for an escapist novel — or whatever it is that brings you a moment of peace — the world doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore.

And when you reach that magical, powerful point where the world doesn’t seem quite so bad, you become of much greater use to your clients, your staff, your board — the social change you seek. When you decide to come, not from a place of fear, overwhelm, or exhaustion, but instead from a place of peace, ease, or even (astonishingly) joy, you will be so much more effective at creating change.

So as a social change leader remember to take a break once in awhile from the chaos that swirls around you. Seek out a sliver of beauty. And when you do, you will come back more energized, more effective, more powerful, and more determined to go another round.

It is possible. But you have to decide to give it a try. Venture into nature or a great book or a piece of music — whatever gives you a lift, and see what happens. I promise you, beauty is right there in front of you, if you simply choose to see it.

Photo Credit: Casey Horner

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  • Nell Edgington