President Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed his Second Inaugural Address in his own handwriting and delivered it on March 4, 1865. The words are engraved at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. I have never forgotten the look on Lincoln’s face, as sculpted by Daniel Chester French. It is to me a look of someone who was tired out, heartbroken, and yet determined and hopeful. Lincoln’s speech was delivered near the end of four years of bitter struggle to keep our nation together. Secession and slavery were near their end, but the bitterness and losses of war were to remain.
Lincoln’s words seem inspired and so helpful to us now that we, too, must find our way forward as one nation after such bitter and violent days that we have been through. “”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. As God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind the nation’s wounds.”
Whether the wounds are between political parties or even between our families and friends, our way forward begins with forgiveness. While deep and painful emotional experiences are encoded within our neural tissues, neurological research supports our brain’s ability to produce reconciliation within ourselves and with others. This is important as the amygdala, one of the areas that processes memory, can continue to keep us in a state of angst and alert for “danger,” and interfere with our pursuit of building trust and peace. Replacing entrenched negative thoughts begins with risking to change our inner narratives—the things that we tell ourselves–and rediscover our capacity for openness and even graciousness.
Coming from a place of joy or sadness after this election, the way forward is best begun with “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” This best begins at home.