Navigating Powerlessness: How to Respond with Strength

November 20, 2018

There are events that wreck us, things that break us down in ways we weren’t prepared for, that make it hard to show up in the world the same way the next day. I’m sure we all can recall at least one such event pretty quickly. In moments like these, our purpose comes into question, and the thought of hustling may seem unbearable. When tragedy really hits home, it can leave us feeling absolutely powerless.

My heart has been heavy in the wake of the massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and it has been breaking for some dear friends who have been having a particularly hard time processing it all. All of these feelings bring my mind back to August 5, 2012, when a white supremacist gunman opened fire and killed six people at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek. After that day and all that unfolded, I was asked to speak about my family’s experience in this video. I recently re-listened to the story that I told and was struck by this line:

“In these tragic situations, I have learned that the power is not in the action, the power is in the response.”

Though it may feel like the hardest thing to do, Purposeful Hustlers respond with power when situations leave us feeling powerless. Here’s how I’ve learned how to do just that:

Be in your feelings.

Feel what you feel! Don’t suppress the pain. There is something valuable and essential about going through all of the feelings that hit you: grief, sadness, anger, or anywhere in between. Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself to feel the weight of what you’re experiencing. There is a mourning process that is appropriate. If this is hard to do on your own, let your people lift you up. Reach out to your community, to your family, or to a professional. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when the weight of the world feels like too much. It’s healthy and SO HUMAN to lean on each other in times of despair. Sitting and letting the pain rot on you doesn’t do any good. If you’re not okay, you can’t help other people in a way that will live out your purpose.

Don’t get addicted to the negativity.

When you feel so strongly impacted or affected by an event, it’s easy to get obsessed with refreshing your phone, reading every news article you can find, or over-saturating your brain listening to NPR. It’s natural to want to look for an answer to the question that won’t leave your mind, “Why is this happening??” But letting the media take over your mental space in that way takes power away from you and limits the control you have over how you choose to respond. It is exhausting, oftentimes depressing, and does not satisfy the persistent questions bogging you down. Restrict your negativity intake. Fast from media for a period of time for the sake of your own wellbeing and mental health. Keep a hold on your own power.

Don’t just look for the silver lining, be a part of it.

In the midst of darkness, sadness, fear, and anger, we still have choices. Choose to have faith and see joy, abundance, and beauty while still feeling your pain. Choose to be a part of the healing work. Choose to be of service. Choose to take action. Show up. Support meaningful policy changes. Support others in their grieving process. Be with them. Hold them. Walk with them. Become activated in this issue that you have become passionate about. Allow the fire you feel to fuel you. Sometimes it works out that your purpose comes out of a place of pain because you have such a strong vision of how the world could be better. Use this experience to chase after that vision with all you’ve got.

A lot of really ugly, harmful and destructive things happen every day, and in the middle of that, people are creating beauty. Look to the light of others, feel their warmth, and shine. Even when the darkness feels strong, respond with power. Respond with your purpose.

Leave a Comment