Sometimes, when my husband reads a particular piece of news or hears a particular story, he will turn to me and say, “Have we lost our minds?” I know what he means. He is saying, “People are crazy, Destiny. I don’t understand! What is going on in the world? What kind of person, people, group would do THAT?” I think most of us have felt that way one way or another over the last eighteen months.
It’s easy to dismiss someone you disagree with as stupid, uneducated or crazy. It’s easy to place big labels, reject concerns as hysteria, and balk at facts that don’t agree with our world view. It’s easy to compare to Hitler or Stalin or make huge historical references without much of a grasp on history.
It’s easy to disappear in a bubble of those who reinforce everything you believe.
It is much harder to sit, listen, engage, and try to understand another point of view. Even harder than that is to choose to love when after all the talking is through you still disagree and you still can’t fully understand.
Even in the worst of times, us versus them is a false choice.
How do we engage? How do we begin to seek to understand rather than to be heard. Here are some questions we can ask within the conversation.
- What am I afraid of in this conversation? With this issue?
- What are they afraid of? Is it the same thing I am afraid of? Do I understand their fear, value it as my own?
- What is the value that is being protected or rejected here? By me? By others?
- What is my ideal result in this situation? What is theirs?
- Can we have both ideals exist in the same universe?
- If not, what would it take for us to love each other, live together, and be at peace?
- What is the basis of my identity? Is this issue tied to it?
- What is the basis of their identity? Is my approach to this issue challenging that identity?
Sometimes we can get caught up in making people “honest”, which usually means adopting our values or our version of logic, rather than hearing their heart. We can decide that we are the only ones who see reality when God gifted us with eyes that can only see one part of the picture.
I’d also encourage you to not confuse issues. Instead, really drill down to the details. Is the issue a conflict of belief, perspective, practice? Don’t take the easy way out by dragging in other issues or concerns to bolster your arguments. That is the way we keep from ever finding common ground. If we could unite and take action on what we agree on and then deal with our disagreements later, we could make the world a better place now, together.
We need each other, but if we keep demonizing each other, we may lose more than just civility. We may lose civil society. And that will cost more than we can realize.
On a personal note, this week has been tough. A lot of misinformation has been going around. And a lot of people are suffering beyond my imagination right now. Please be gentle with each other. Don’t stop advocating, fighting for what you believe is right and moral. But remember that the people staring across the chasm, even if they are wrong, are still valuable. The Bible says we have to love our enemies. That means we will have enemies. So, love your enemies today. And keep fighting for a better tomorrow.
Put it into action:
- How can I advocate for what I believe in, with all my heart, while loving the other side?
- How can I take my values beyond words today? What solutions are available to my hands, my community, my pocket book right now?