“We live in difficult and divisive times.”

This is a sentiment that, somehow, I’ve heard every year of my life… and yet, it seems truer now more than it has ever been before. The political and social events of 2016 weighed heavily on all of us, and the inauguration about to occur shows no sign of relief. Regardless of your partisanship, we are divided, and we are hateful.

While it’s easiest to attribute the problem to others, it’s far more difficult — yet far more important — to start with ourselves. The proverbial “road to hell” is paved with good intentions, but the longevity of that cliche only serves to downplay its wisdom. Your intentions may be good, noble, and beautiful. You can defend them with every breath of faith that you exasperate, and every ounce of wisdom you cherish. They can still lead to results that are damaging, detrimental, and disgusting.

Some see this as a call to inaction. I use it as a reminder, in spite of myself, to weigh my own actions and beliefs by the results they incur on the world around me (on the people I love, or the people I despise). The world I desire may or may not come about by way my desire, and the actions I implore to create it may lead to its undoing.

To be skeptical — to be agnostic — is, above all else, to be skeptical of one’s own self. And I’m not certain there’s a way to to truly love another individual without that type of thinking, and the openness to others it brings. Without that openness, I’m not certain you could ever change anyone.

Remember that the ideas you despise are held by people who deserve your love. And in our democracy, your ideals will not come to fruition without the support of those people. If you want the world to change, then you must gain their support. And unless you can show them love, you will never reach them.

I leave you with this sentiment — a meditation, not unlike a prayer — which first crossed my lips in the last month of 2015, and has every morning since.