The change of seasons at this time of the year means the days grow shorter and darkness comes earlier. We become more aware of the importance of light to our activities and routines. We adjust lights in our living space to counter the increasing hours of darkness. Lights also play a key role in our celebration of winter holidays. When darkness grows, we appreciate the presence of light even more.
Interestingly, when the darkness is deepest, lights seem brighter and even travels longer distances. On a dark, moonless night lights that may be far away are clearly visible. The same light shining in the midday sun does not stand out and may not even be visible. Light shines brightest when it encounters the greatest darkness.
Still, light is not necessarily the opposite of darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. The brighter the light, the less darkness we experience. When light is present, darkness retreats. When a light is extinguished, the darkness reasserts itself.
So, what does a discussion of the relationship between darkness and light have to do with our work and role in life? In many ways there is a parallel. We often talk about “dark days” as we describe difficult times when our hope and optimism are challenged. Negativity, doubt, and cynicism may seem to be everywhere. Our energy and enthusiasm can begin to wane. We can also become easily discouraged.
Ironically, these are time when we can have the greatest impact on the lives and spirits of those around us. When we push back against the “darkness” we offer hope and optimism and “light” a different path. Like physical light in a dark space, we push back the shadows and illuminate possibilities. We can choose to tolerate the darkness or we can choose to be the light that pushes against it. The choice is ours. It is a significant decision.
We can choose to see possibilities rather than problems. When we do, we bring light to the challenges we face. We can seek solutions rather than focus on barriers. In life, we are most likely to find what we look for. Seeking and seeing possibilities is the equivalent of light pushing back darkness and hopelessness.
We can choose an attitude of optimism and openness. Attitude is a choice. A positive attitude can encourage those around us to see goodness in relationships and possibility in circumstances. A positive attitude does not mean that we ignore the difficulties we face. Rather it means that we choose to spend our time and energy in ways that value goodness and prioritize potential.
We can choose to offer our support and share our wisdom. Each of us have experiences, insights, and learned lessons that hold the potential to help others. During trying times our support for each other can be a powerful way to push back the darkness and build the confidence and competence needed to overcome the difficulties and challenges we face.
We can choose engagement. Turning inward in the face of criticism and doubt may feel like we are protecting ourselves, but choosing to engage can lead to better understanding and build trust. Assumptions left unexamined and unchallenged become beliefs. Assumptions can be dispelled. Beliefs are difficult to change.
We can choose to take a long-term view. Like the change of seasons, the times we are experiencing will pass. The days will lengthen, and we will experience more light in the days ahead. Knowing that there are better days ahead can give us the courage to press on and be today’s light while we wait for better days to come.
We can allow ourselves to become discouraged and wonder if we make a difference. Or we can be the light that shines brightest and is seen from the farthest distance. We may not be able to choose the circumstances we face, but we can choose how we will respond. In that choice lies the opportunity to make a crucial difference in our lives and the lives of all around us.