In light of the growing divisiveness and confusion in our country, I am committed to having meaningful conversations with others about their personal experiences, their values and perspectives. There is no topic in today’s headlines that has not touched someone I know in a very personal way.
As is often the case, we may turn a blind eye to subjects that make us uncomfortable until it hits home, and then our perspective gets a huge jolt. Take some time to reflect on the people you know and care for in your family and communities who have endured similar life experiences and tragic events that unfold in the news on a daily basis.
How have these events impacted their daily lives and their families and communities?
Today, my friends and I have families comprised of biracial children, children adopted from foreign countries, and children born to immigrants who became U S citizens. Within these families are spouses of different ethnicities, gay couples, single mothers and fathers, and transgender siblings . Our families are very real examples of diversity, change and acceptance — microcosms of our country. When dehumanizing language is used to stoke fear by leaders and the media, I think about these children, these families.
Lack of accountability, lack of trust and basic respect accompanied by far too much blaming are clouding the issues and our reactions to them. There is so much negativity and resistance coming from every corner. It is a powerful energy but it is destructive. We are long overdue for a major shift in that energy – transforming it to positive and getting back to legitmate problem solving with dignity, compassion and compromise.
Each of us can make a significant contribution to this transformation by becoming more aware of our own resistance. There are a few simple things you can do to gain broader and deeper perspectives about leaders, issues and our fellow human beings.
Have a meaningful conversation with someone whose opinion on a tough subject is quite different than yours. Proactively listen — to learn. Get curious about what has shaped their perspective.
Ask yourself if a leader from an opposing party made the same remarks or took this same action, would you feel differently? Become aware of the filters that we habitually use when we watch the news. Does our party bias override our own innate values and principles?
Get personal — imagine yourself or a loved one enduring an assault, bullying, or gun violence? How would you be feeling and reacting? Might your own long-held opinion change if you were directly effected? How could these situations be handled differently by everyone (leadership, media, communities, etc.)
In a recent interview, author and researcher, Brene Brown offered this compelling statement about humanity:
“We are connected to each other in a profound way and the thing that moves us away from that faster than anything else is not politics but fear.”
Our soldiers are both Republicans and Democrats, yet they stand united to protect us. We don’t chose the best doctor for our life-threatening diseases based on their politics. We don’t ask the fire fighter who comes to our rescue what their party affiliation is. Brene Brown encourages us to “hold hands with a stranger.” If our common goal is to help make this world a better place for us and for future generations, we need to shift our perspective from focusing on fears and differences to seeking common ground and understanding.
There are no simple answers to our complex problems. We will need to come together, find common ground and genuinely listen to those who have differing opinions from our own to find workable solutions. It will involve compromise, trust and respect.
Would you react the same way if a leader in an opposing party made the same remarks?
Would you feel the same way if your child came to you and disclosed a sexual assault from their youth?
How would you feel if you were the target of another’s cyber bullying?