Living in an age where all the bad news of the world is so readily available makes it that much harder to feel like we are doing enough.
I struggle with becoming overly impassioned by many things: food waste, shelter dogs, abuse in households, negligence in schools, foreign affairs, the killings in PH, Armenia, Ukraine, Palestine, the oppressive American criminal justice system, social security, my quesarito when it doesn’t have enough cheese. All of these things, including the making of a quesarito, make me extremely emotional.
Because of this I like to steam roll. I hate waiting for change and I hate standing by watching mediocre to horrible things happening in front of my eyes or on the news. Or at a nursing home. At the shetler. And with all of the shit problems of the world, our rampant anger and energy never seem like it does enough.
And here begins the idea of something I like to call Schindler’s Complex.
Oskar Schindler and the movie, “Schindler’s List”
There are many themes that revolve around this man Oskar Schindler, but in the film’s most famous scene, we watch how he agonizes over not saving enough people during the Holocaust, even after saving so many. The work he had done was simply not enough, and it pained him.
I’m sure it pained him for two major reasons, the first being obvious; simply, he knew there were more people out there that needed saving. “One more person.” Anyone with empathy would feel broken knowing there are countless lives suffering. And the second; initial guilt from not knowing before.
Empathy and guilt both play a huge role in feeling like what we do is never enough. We can save one life or one thousand, but still feel like we didn’t make the impact we should have.
Schindler’s Complex Today
We live in such a time where we know too much about the world yet not enough. People are still being sex trafficked and sold online, Putin’s invading Ukraine, Armenia is still fighting for their own peace, Palestinians are being torn apart by Israel, women’s bodies are mishandled by ignorance, people aren’t talking enough about these Chinese concentration camps or about the abusive and inhuman CIA and FBI tactics, and shock collars still exist for dogs-
What can we possibly do? Is it even doing anything? Could we ever fix the world’s problems for good?
How can I wrestle with who I am if I can’t seem to fix any of these problems or make an impact?
How much of what I do and who I am contributes to the world being such a horrible place?
“I see so much around me and it’s overwhelming- but something must be done, about everything.”
“I can’t seem to fix everything- I’m trying so hard but I don’t feel satisfied. I don’t feel like I solved the problem.”
“I feel so bad about myself- and so guilty.”
You’ll never know the impact you’ve made, and you’ll have to accept that.
You may not realize it, but both that guilt and gratification translates to this: “if I solve this problem, that means I am a good person and I’ll feel good. I want to feel good, and need to feel good.”
Oskar Schindler absolutely did the right thing. But he will never feel and understand the magnitude of his actions, because his guilt wouldn’t let him.
And our ego swings both ways. We feel too guilty, and we make it about us to relieve us of guilt. We want to prove we’re awesome, and we make it about us, to honestly, stroke our ego. I must do a great, big thing.
Years ago, a grocery company had to tackle a nasty lawsuit, in which to recover from the backlash tried to get involved with The Hunger Project. The CEO of the grocery company did what was subjectively a “great act” by donating $10,000.
Their contribution was rejected by a woman running the Hunger Project who knew all too well that the love mattered more than the act. The CEO years later began to understand, and donated $250,000, when he left like he finally understood the Hunger Project’s message.
This isn’t all to say that doing great acts is selfish. That’s silly. But look at how our emotions get involved with the acts of love we try to give to others. And look at how “great acts” are truly subjective, anyhow- but love is love. And that seems to have a bigger and more meaningful impact.
A Solution from Mother Teresa
A quote by Mother Teresa beautifully says, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Meaning of course that, we will never realize we have done something great.
The world does need every ounce of love we can possibly give. The same way others have given you love and changed your life, you must believe that you are doing the same no matter how small the act may seem.
Reconcile that in yourself- forgive yourself. These burdens aren’t yours along to carry, and you must believe you are doing your part when your heart cares so much.
Let that care move you to do that you feel is right. And then give yourself that time to step back, trust that others are picking up where you left off.
There is so much love in the world that so many others including you can give, that want to give. Let them!
Our love flows from one person to the next where it’s needed. Trust that. Love is what connects us and changes hearts and minds, not the grandeur of the act.
Love is all that Mother Teresa could give to the world, it was all that Oskar could, too. Look at what it was capable of.
Your love is no different.
So, when you feel like the world is too much, remember how your heart aches with love. Trust your love, trust where it wants to go and trust what it’s capable of doing.
Schindler certainly didn’t realize this great thing he had done. He did what he thought was small and was not enough.
It was his great and selfless love that made all the difference in the end. Still, he will never begin to understand.
Neither will you.
Don’t let that stop you from acting with love.