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A Note from Jo on Forward Motion

by Joanna Gaines
Published on August 17, 2021

Illustration by Lida Ziruffo

Read Jo’s perspective on stepping into this season with a mindset of moving forward—to better see joy, gratitude, and beauty in our world.

a time for forward motion

by joanna gaines

When we landed on the theme of forward motion over a year ago, I envisioned talking a lot about personal risk and growth and trying new things. But as we spent more and more time peeling back the layers, I kept coming back to the idea of progress as a culture—how we, as human beings, can find ways to move forward together. Because lately, it feels like we’re stuck.

Mostly by where we find ourselves: living in a world where drama and division are offered up as a source of cheap entertainment. Where every day can feel like a battle, trying to reconcile messages of beauty and growth and connectedness with those of ugliness, destruction, and conflict. Stuck wondering how we got here and where we go next. Whether you think you’ve played a part or not, I think it’s fair to say we’ve all been caught in the crossfire. Things get thrown at us so quickly and so recklessly that it can feel like we’ve been robbed of our depth perception, seeing only what’s visible on the surface. And at times, as a result, we’ve gone on to assume intent, guess motive, and hypothesize meaning. We’ve traded grace and generosity for fast assumptions and false accusations.

This year is proof. I bet we can all take a look around our own lives and see its effect—reckless words that have hurt us, people we’ve hurt with reckless words, moments we were misjudged or were too quick to pass judgment on someone else.

Times that we’ve fought first, thought second. Part of me wonders if social media, or the sport of scroll and click, has shifted the way we approach understanding one another. If the quickness of it all and the immediacy that we’ve learned to live by—the ability to approve or dismiss with a tap of a button, to comment quickly and without a filter, to click and read only the catchy headline—have weakened our ability to see deeply and hear genuinely what others have to say. More than anything, I wonder if it’s lessened how much we try.

It’s as if somewhere along the way we forgot that we are real and complex human beings whose stories run deep and that sometimes the truth sits below the surface.

Some years ago, Chip and I found ourselves in a world we’d never known with no instructions or road map. When our show took off, we couldn’t have imagined all the beauty and blessings that would follow for us and for our family—all of which we’re continually grateful for. But it didn’t take us long to realize that being a part of this new reality also meant being a part of the news cycle. Stories get written about us, about our family, our plans, our supposed beliefs and politics. We’ve been through it enough now to know that it’s just part of the territory, and a lot of times it’s so unbelievable we can’t help but laugh. But every now and then, a headline or story will strike a nerve regardless of how off the mark it may be. Those times are harder to reconcile because we’re human, and the idea that “it’s just part of the territory” doesn’t make untrue accusations any less painful.

Chip is so much better at this than I am. When it’s clear that it’s nothing more than someone who knows nothing about us poking us where it hurts, he can let their comments roll off his back. He can keep moving forward. Then there’s me, the one who wants to right the wrong. Who wants to call foul because I thought we all knew to play fair.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt this way—misunderstood, misrepresented, missed altogether. Not by a long stretch. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of feeling stuck in the muck and mire of a social culture that is robbing us all of deep and true connection—of joy, peace, honest understanding, and empathy.

Maybe you are too. And maybe now is the time to declare that we’re not willing to give that up. Not yet. Not when they are the very things that make life worth living and loving.

We have somehow fooled ourselves into thinking that real connection is too hard to come by these days. But I’ve witnessed too many moments that prove otherwise. A shared moment of beauty, a glimpse of humor, of lightness, of heroic pursuits, of people living for one another—and I’m convinced all over again that there is more light than dark, more life than death, more hope than anger, more joy than sorrow, more gratitude among us than we sometimes remember. So let’s fight for a world that won’t so easily forget. A world that is slow to anger and rich in compassion. A world that would rather be loving than be right. A world that keeps moving forward. And I can think of no better time than now.

This story was adapted for digital from the fall issue of Magnolia Journal.

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