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The Soul of a Citizen: Does Your Vote Really Matter?

10/31/2012 09:22 am ET | Updated Dec 31, 2012

As a resident of California, I'm told that my vote doesn't really matter. The state is as blue as it gets, it'll go for President Obama whether I vote or not, so why bother to vote? It's not like the election is going to hang on my vote, or yours for that matter. So what's the point of voting if the outcome, at least on the state level, is already pretty much determined?

I argue that it matters immensely whether or not you or I vote, even if we happen to live in a state that is clearly red or clearly blue. Here's why:

On Nov. 6, we are called to exercise one of our basic rights of citizenship and cast our ballots for the candidates -- at the national and local levels -- we believe will best serve to lead us. Some people argue it's not worth making the effort to vote either because they don't like the candidates or they don't trust government no matter which party holds the reins. "I'm sitting this one out," they say.

You might have a thousand reasons to justify your not participating in the electoral process next week. You might even tell yourself that your vote doesn't matter, that neither presidential candidate speaks the truth or speaks to the issues that matter to you. You might feel that the system is corrupt, that Wall Street runs the country anyway, and so why bother?

From that point of view, it's easy to become cynical and indifferent to the process, and many people feel exactly that. Whatever the outcome on Nov. 6, nearly half of us will end up unhappy with the result, and the temptation will be to turn our backs, pack up our marbles and go home.

But I suggest there's something larger at stake in our choice about whether to vote or not vote.

First, voting is both a right and a responsibility as a citizen. Our democracy is founded upon the principle of free and fair elections in which every eligible citizen casts a vote. We must work to ensure that our electoral process is conducted in accordance with this principle and that those who seek to derail the process do not win the day. It is our responsibility to protect the process itself, and that does not happen by withdrawing our participation. As messy as it may be, our participation is required.

Secondly, consider what happens to the human spirit if, as the steward of that spirit, you decide that your "vote" doesn't matter? No matter how justified one may feel for not engaging in the process, when we tell ourselves that our vote doesn't matter, the unconscious message being conveyed is "I don't matter."

One of the most commonly-held limiting beliefs that serves to obstruct our access to living a powerful, creative, and satisfying life is the unconsciously-held belief that "I don't matter." It's not like this belief is at the forefront of our conscious awareness. Most of us are completely unaware we harbor it, but its mark is left all over our lives.

When deep down, we believe we don't matter, we live as one who doesn't matter. We cancel our own vote in a myriad of ways that determine the ultimate quality of life we live on a daily basis. Just check out your relationships if you want evidence. Relationships are the living laboratories within which our unconscious beliefs are played out.

It seems to be a universal experience in the human journey that somewhere along the road between birth and death, we become disappointed or feel betrayed. We have our hearts broken, our hopes punctured, our dreams dashed. At some point in our life's journey, we can pretty much count on feeling misunderstood, mistreated, or judged unfairly. I've never met a person yet who, if they were truly honest with themselves, did not feel some version of this scenario. Who among us has never felt devastated by life, either by a personal experience or by something that "hit close to home"?

As you've read here many times, it's not what happens to us that matters, it's what we do with what happens to us that really counts. And if, in the face of disappointment, loss and devastation, you or I decide that "life sucks, who cares, why bother, I give up, my vote and voice don't matter," then the spark of life that is our spirit, our authentic self, the soul that came here to wake and show up, the light that came to shine, grows dim and eventually, that light goes out. And then?

Something in us dies. OK, our body is still walking around, but the unique expression of our soul and spirit becomes smothered under cynicism, indifference or resignation.

So before you decide your vote doesn't matter in this election, I ask you consider this question: Where else in your life have you left the playing field because you didn't like or agree with the way the game was being played? What relationships have stopped working due, in part, to your decision not to fully participate?

You might be absolutely correct in your assumption that not voting is a way to register your disdain for the process or the candidates. I would not argue that the process is without serious problems. That the system needs reform is without question. But...

You still have your one vote, and if you don't exercise it you give up your right to have a say in the matter. That, ultimately, is the premise upon which this country was founded. Thousands of people have given their lives so that you and I could have that right.

If you think your vote doesn't matter, consider what the outcome would have been if our founding fathers felt that way. We wouldn't be here, for starters. Think of others who have made a difference throughout history. People like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Madam Curie, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Jonas Salk, Margaret Sanger, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and so many more.

Then there are the ones whose names most of us don't even know: the man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square or the first person who actually picked up a hammer and began to tear down the Berlin Wall.

What's the difference between any one of these people and you or me? Absolutely nothing! Except, these people chose to matter. No one gave them permission. Many of them chose to do so in the face of far more difficult circumstances than most of us will ever encounter in our daily lives.

So as you consider whether or not you'll vote in this election, ask yourself if you matter, ask if your one vote, your one life matters. Be honest. And if, after careful consideration, you still choose to "sit this one out," check out that bench you're keeping warm. Bench warming, whether on Nov. 6 or elsewhere in your life, may seem like a comfortable choice in the short term, but in the long run, it is lethal to the light of your spirit.

You have a choice about whether or not to exercise your right to vote. Either way, it matters. You have the final say.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Do leave a comment here and/or come pay a visit to my personal blog and website: Rx For The Soul. For personal contact, reach me at judith@judithrich.com.

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Happy voting!

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